New Progressive Platform Wants to Change the Debate in North Texas' Local Elections

Activist groups are banding together to push a progressive agenda at the local level.
Activist groups are banding together to push a progressive agenda at the local level.
courtesy of DFW For All
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Focused on progressive issues, a new coalition of more than a dozen grassroots organizations will try its luck in swaying the political debate around municipal elections in the Dallas-Fort Worth area this May.

The area isn't exactly known for equality or economic inclusivity, but the DFW For All campaign is a platform of policy proposals and ideals that touch on issues such as housing, healthcare, labor rights, climate change and government accountability.

According to the Washington-based Urban Institute think tank, North Texas' largest cities fair poorly on economic and racial inclusivity. Dallas ranks 272nd, Fort Worth 175th and Arlington 196th. Worse still, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit local communities of color especially hard.

The DFW For All coalition, which includes the Texas Working Families Party, Our Revolution North Texas, United Fort Worth and Sunrise Movement Dallas, wants to reverse these trends.

“I’m hoping that this will focus not only folks who are running for office through the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex on progressive issues and policies, but also the electorate,” Pamela Young, an organizer with United Fort Worth, told the Observer.

Though the campaign will not explicitly endorse particular candidates, which would violate the rules for some of the coalition's nonprofits, it aims to push the envelope in North Texas, particularly for self-described progressive candidates.

The coalition behind the campaign wants to chip away at what it views as the elitist political culture in Texas.

“We are working-class champions, parents with full-time jobs, volunteers, students, environmentalists, migrants, advocates, organizers, Fort Worth folks, Dallasites, your neighbors, your community,” says a written statement shared by the coalition.

The policy platform is a bold collection of ideas, aimed to expand the notion of what is possible in local politics.

Kidus Girma, an organizer with Sunrise Movement Dallas, says local city councils lack "imagination and empathy."

"One of the hardest things to do is to get them to understand how much power they have and how much better they can make their cities, and yet they either play it safe or do not engage fully or just kind of remain silent,” Girma said.

Some of the planks in the DFW for All platform are particularly relevant in light of the recent Winter Storm Uri debacle, such as the demand for investments in renewable energy and for municipal governments to have a robust emergency and safety plan for disasters.

“Amidst the winter storm, we saw the many failures and lack of preparedness of our cities. It just makes that policy push that much more important and timely,” Young said.

Some tenets represent longer-standing demands, such as better public transportation and more affordable housing. Others are a bit less common, like the notion of a public bank.

“We can talk back and forth about the legality of it and how to execute it on a local level, but one of the things I like to mention to people is that Dakota is a state with a public bank. South Dakota is a deep red state. So if it can happen there, why can't it happen in Dallas or Fort Worth?” Girma said.

Altogether, the platform proposes a significant shift in policy that would promote greater economic and racial equity in North Texas.

It also sets a standard for local politicians who present themselves as progressive reformers by clearly staking out policy proposals around five key themes: Housing is a Human Right, Cities for Working People, Health and Safety for All, A Clean and Livable Future, and Government of the People.

Though the campaign was already planned before February’s hard freeze — and delayed the announcement as a result — the cold snap has only heated up the political iron.

“What we are trying to do is hold people accountable who say that they are progressive," Young said. "If you are progressive, then there are certain issues that are going to be important to you. There are certain policies that you should be fighting for. And if those policies and those issues are nowhere on your radar, then, you cannot call yourself progressive." 

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