Negotiating, not belly-aching. Letter writing, not glitter fighting.
"From our point of view, we're interested in trying to get things done, as opposed to simply getting people riled up," says Scott Price, a sometime-lobbyist and the public policy director for a newly formed Richmond political group, the Alliance for Progressive Values.
The alliance was founded in May by a small group of Richmonders. The goal: to galvanize fellow liberals into action on issues as local as the city noise ordinance and as omnipresent as genetically modified food. Some of their big concerns are environmental and sustainability issues, improved public transportation, the state uranium mining ban and offshore drilling.
"A lot of the people most affected by the things that are happening with the government and our country are the ones who don't really have the time to get their voice heard," says Stephanie Rodriguez, the group's treasurer. "They're just trying to survive. And that's where we fit in."
The group won't release its membership numbers, but organizers say membership has grown "exponentially" since the original 10. It holds salons the second Monday of each month, from 6-9 p.m. at Helen's in the Fan, where participants discuss current issues over wine and appetizers. They're also developing a radio show to air on WRIR-FM 97.3 in the fall. The group holds a DJ night at Gallery5 on Friday, Aug. 26, which includes a DJ named "Cleric Cantor" (aka Jimmy Blackford).
Style: How did the APV get started?
Rodriguez: Basically, a group of friends -- all of us were talking through social networking, and Facebook in particular -- about how frustrated we were with the current environment, with what's been going in Wisconsin with the unions ... and also by the attack on women's health in our own state. A lot of us had been fed up for a long time, but that was sort of a galvanizing moment for us.
Price: For a lot of us, there's a sense that the political environment has very much skewed in a direction we're not comfortable with. Our side of the aisle wasn't getting heard very well. The other side has a lot of money, the other side has access to the media that we don't. And there was a lot of frustration, and a real sense of: "Why can't we do this?" My thought was, "Why can't we?" There's nothing stopping us.
What's the secret to getting politicians and elected officials to listen to you?
Price: Know the issues. Be concise. Think out what you want to say.
You need to have concrete issues. If there's something you want to change, you need to say, "I want this changed, I'd like it changed this way, and this is what I'd like to accomplish." Simply saying that you're angry, or that you'd like them to do a better job or something like that, is not enough. You really need to educate yourself, and you need to know the issues and know what you want.
Also, you need to be aware that there's the possible and the not-so-possible. ... I have to tell our members that the state legislature, we have a pretty conservative state legislature right now, and it may be more conservative after this election cycle. We're nervous about that. We can't change things in an hour or two. Some people, you can talk to them, and they're going to be polite and nice, but it's not going to change their mind. I can't change [U.S. Rep.] Eric Cantor's mind, I'm pretty sure.
Do you have any common ground with Republican elected officials?
Price: Sure we will. Oh, sure we will. And we're so new that I can't say we have this long track record of we talk to everybody and so on and so forth. But that's really important. And there are places we're never going to see eye to eye. That's just not going to happen. But there [are] lots and lots of places where we can.
Rodriguez: We've found there's definitely common ground, you know? A lot of people care about the same core set of issues. ... We just in general stand for the typical progressive values.
Price: Well, we think they're common-sense values.
Rodriguez: Like social justice, in general. The environment.
Price: Economic fairness. Good government.
Rodriguez: Good government. Not just big government.
Why is this organization a new thing for Richmond?
Price: There are other liberal organizations in town. I think MoveOn's got some kind of Richmond chapter or something like that. I think what we can say is that we do have some expertise and we have some experience working in government affairs. We're certainly, we're liberal. We're on the left side of the dial. But we're prepared to work within the system. We're about results. We're about trying to get things done. And I think some of the more activist organizations -- and this is on both sides, frankly -- tend to be about getting press, or getting noticed. It is unlikely that you'll see us with a lot of signage, or you know, throwing pies at people.
Rodriguez: Or glitter.
Price: It's not our style. S