History of Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance
Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance started out as a Bernie grassroots group co-founded by Mike and Maria Quackenbush in August of 2015. It started out with 14 people. In April of 2016 the realization that if the group was to survive, it needed to become something sustainable. In May of 2016 it was proposed at a general membership meeting that work begin on that. By June of that same year an interim steering committee was formed which worked on a mission statement, a platform and a name. It took about four months to get those finalized. Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance put up its main Facebook page in December of 2016. Another Facebook page came along later, which is focused on discussion, while the main page is reserved for the posting of meetings, events and actions. Jim Fenner stepped forward to help with a logo and Caroline Fenner stepped up to chair a committee to get people to attend the Dutchess County Legislature Meetings. A structure was taking shape.
When the idea was proposed by the Grassroots Bernie groups to form a statewide group made up of grassroots groups all over the state, it was recognized that bylaws for DCPAA were needed. Work started on them in December of 2016. DCPAA got a lot of help with that from Adam Schackelford and Mike Quackenbush. The bylaws were adopted in February 2017.
The resist Trump efforts in January of 2017 made the group grow in size dramatically. By March officers were elected, who serve on the Steering Committee. Caroline Fenner was the first elected Director. Maria and Mike Quackenbush are currently serving as Deputy Directors.
Members of DCPAA seem to be very issues focused. So, Action Teams were started. At this point in time, there are seven of them: Criminal Justice, Education, Environment, Healthcare, Sanctuary, Saving Democracy, and Women’s Rights. The first Action Team meeting was held on March 8, 2017. The Action Teams were started with the idea that they would probably last a month or so, or as long as it would take for a team to complete one action plan. However, many of those same teams are still holding on and have completed numerous action plans and they keep creating more.
Even though there are over 1,260 members on the Facebook page and 530 names on our email list, still most of the work is coming from a few dedicated activists.
The Sanctuary Action Team contributed to the creation of the declaration of the City of Poughkeepsie as a Sanctuary City on June 19, 2017 by attending Poughkeepsie Common Council and Dutchess Co. Legislature meetings and writing letters to the editor in favor of Sanctuary. They have been working closely with Unidos and Community Voices Heard and are now working on the issue of DACA.
The Saving Democracy Action Team has been trying to get campaign finance reform to happen in Dutchess Co. by constantly emailing Legislators, writing Letters to the Editor and attending and speaking at DC Legislature meetings. From April to August, members of their team, along with the help of the Democratic petitioners across Dutchess, collected over 1,000 signatures of citizens demanding campaign finance reform and an end to pay-to-play which were presented to the DC Legislature on August 14th. We are now in the process of getting the next one thousand signatures and have recruited a small group of speech writers, so that we can encourage others to step up to read those speeches at Legislature Meetings. We made several lobby visits to our local legislators on the topic of election reform and we held a forum on Concon and then put it up for a vote to our active members. A press release was put out that our membership voted unanimously to stand against a NYS Con Con.
The Health Care Action Team collected signatures for the Campaign for NY Health petition for NYS Single Payer, got trained in single payer canvassing over the Summer, and held a Single Payer Healthcare Forum at the UU on Nov. 2. They also created a one page survey to canvass local business owners about healthcare and are now looking for volunteers to do the canvassing and have provided them with all the materials they need, including a script and talking points.
The Environment Action Team has met with the Dutchess County Environmental Management Council to provide ideas about ways it can create the roadmap towards a fossil fuel free Dutchess County. The Environment Team has joined forces with environmentalists and fracktivists from other community groups, like Protect Orange County, to fight the Cricket Valley Energy plant in Dover which is a gas-fired plant that will be spewing unknown amounts of harmful methane and chemicals just 18 miles away from Poughkeepsie. Two forums have already been held in Dover and Rhinebeck about Cricket Valley. They are also working on starting a Facebook page on this issue and played a part in a letter that was hand delivered by Arthur Schwartz to AG Schneiderman. Our DCPAA Director was one of the signers of the letter. A rally, which was co-sponsored by DCPAA, Mothers Out Front and NYPIRG opposing the building of the Cricket Valley plant was held outside of the Chamber of Commerce Breakfast in November.
The Women’s Rights Action Team co-hosted a very successful rally on May 13th in front of Sue Serino’s office. And the Women’s Rights team continues to support the work of Planned Parenthood Mid-Hudson Valley. They have plans to address women’s rights in many areas over the coming months.
The Education Action Team wrote letters to Senator Serino and Gov. Cuomo in support of education funding that was promised by Gov. Cuomo.
The Criminal Justice Reform Action Team just formed over the Summer, but they already co-hosted events set up to support walkers who participated in the March for Justice who walked from New York City to Albany in the name of criminal justice reform organized by the Alliance of Families for Justice when they came through Poughkeepsie in early September. We co-hosted a dinner for them and a forum and DCPAA served a breakfast on Sept. 4th in Poughkeepsie at the UU. A couple of our members also walked with them for part of their journey.
Yes, DCPAA is issues focused. However, a lot is done to support candidates considered to be progressive. However, at this point in time, DCPAA does not do endorsements.
DCPAA will work with any person and any group that is working on the same issues that are spelled out in the DCPAA platform. Thus, the word Alliance in its name.