After staying the night in Flagstaff, I boarded the bus to Phoenix. As I traversed the Coconino National Forest, I listened to the stories of my seatmate who was in the process of relocating. There are jobs in Phoenix, and there is a light rail she can use daily. I told her about the event I had planned at Four Peaks Brewing and the vote no on 105 campaign the locals had built. She told me she was shocked that there was even a proposition that would destroy the future of the light rail considering how the city was growing. She said to me what so many advocates had in regards to this news “The people in Phoenix voted for the light rail three times already! Why are they wasting people’s time with trying to stop it?.”
I checked into my hotel and grabbed a quick late lunch, at the adjacent clubhouse. I scanned the local news catching up on the issue and what takes we would have to combat in helping to spread information about what’s actually happening. The next morning I prepared for the Brewery Meetup and combed over RPA and Urban Phoenix Project social media comments, My aim was to find what people most wanted to see as the light rail moves forward as well as how the “Americans for Prosperity” had engaged in a number of tactics attempting to influence the people’s vote.
Once I arrived to Four Peaks, I met with a number of local transit activists and organizations. One part of community engagement in organizing that we need to emphasize more is Coalition Building. In contrast to the amount being spent to fund anti-train lobbyists, we need to match in people power. Spending time with the community of Phoenix shows that they believe in their people power as well.
Though it comes down to the vote, what we can do as a national org is bring attention to the cause. We can take our experiences from the federal policy battles we fight everyday and give tangible examples to local organizations. We can use our platform to highlight work in a region so others otherside that region can share and learn and raise awareness. We can host events and gather our fellow organizers to commune over food and beer.
Members of Southwest Urbanist Memes for Desert Oriented Teens, Urban Phoenix Project, All Aboard AZ, Vote No on 105 & 106, as well as a few media producers and bloggers. As we all swapped stories, talked strategy, snacked, and make goals, I found it very refreshing to see people in different positions all in agreeance on the need for public transit. Though the strategies may vary, it is a diversity of tactics that helped them win in Phoenix. We sipped a variety of beers from the thirst quenching Hop Knot IPA to the Peach Golden Ale and Kilt Lifter Scotish Ale, something for everyone.
After happy hour, we donned orange vests and went on a tour of the Brewery. A huge thank you to the team at Four Peaks for offering us a fun team building experience to blow off steam after months of hard organizing. I think it’s always a good idea to gather before a big vote or strike or march. It’s important to remember why we gather and vote, for the community. For the betterment and continuation of improvements to our society that benefit the workers, commuters, and those who rely on rail for their Prosperity.
The tour wrapped and we ordered snacks while tucking in to all aspects of the experience that is Phoenix Urbanism. The resistance faced, the drive to be more environmentally conscious in a city so many say “shouldn’t exist. I got to spend some time talking with Christian Monahan, a young member of the Administrative Team for Traffic Services. They work hard to propose bike lanes, bus and light rail modifications, and drive conversations about maintaining and enriching existing public spaces. We talked about the need for younger people in positions on city council, working in local government, transportation, and infrastructure. People that come from a diversity of backgrounds.
With much nodding in agreeance as we chomped on Bavarian Pretzels and AZ Chicken Rolls there were multiple members of SWMDOT that joined Rail Passengers Association despite not having to the National Network. They believe in their light rail and fight to reconnect Phoenix. They will fight for high speed rail moving forward and they are committed to building this future.
The next morning I rose early to go get breakfast and drive a proposed route from Phoenix to Tucson. I met with Tony Triffeletti from All Aboard Arizona. As we traversed backroads and through the Saguaro National Park, he pointed out all the opportunities these communities could have with rail access. We talked about how so much of this country was built on rail. As people my age begin to claim their place in the grassroots organizing community, it is imperative that we take the torch as it is passed and honor the work so many have put into the public transportation infrastructure of the United States. There have been generations of advocates before us that have worked to make our lives better and I listened to Tony talk about the history of his experience and those that came before him, I felt confident that we can take up the work and keep pushing it. As we rolled into the late summer sun of an early evening in Tucson, I felt great about the vote ahead and confident in our allies we toasted.