Presented by:
Sam Wambold, Cleveland Harris II, Andrew Hansen, Sage Jones, Maya Morales, and Seth Mangold

Audience: Community, Educators, Human Rights / Social Justice Professionals, Young Adults (14+)        Workshop capacity: 100

We’ll be talking about the process of getting the four People First Bellingham initiatives on the ballot, share our analysis of the election results, and what future work might look like.  The PFB initiatives were seen as radical because we were fighting for renters rights, workers rights, and limiting police power. It shouldn’t be extreme to push for stronger protections in the workplace and for renters, but Bellingham business, wealth and those in government united against the working class and labeled it as such. It shouldn’t be extreme to ban invasive technology that disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income individuals and thankfully the majority of Bellingham agreed. It is getting harder for poor people and marginalized communities to live in Bellingham and we need to continue being creative and extreme in our pursuit for justice in our community. 

People First Bellingham utilized strategies of Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement in building class solidarity. These four initiatives were written to uplift the working class and protect marginalized community members. As housing and the cost of living continue to skyrocket, good wages and working conditions disappear, and incarceration rates increase-we need to continue the fight for affordable housing, good paying jobs, and safer neighborhoods. We need each other for this movement to be sustainable. We are an inescapable network of mutuality that will get stronger as we connect with more of our community and invest in collective care through building people power, co-creating sustainable solutions, and prioritizing the needs of our most vulnerable community members. 

The PFB campaign demonstrated that ordinary people should be a part of creating new understandings of our local government’s role in society. Practicing consistent presence and patience collecting signatures to get initiatives 1-4 on the ballot allowed us to reach members of the Bellingham community that may otherwise feel disillusioned from local politics. We received consistent support, curiosity, and excitement from all different types of people within the Bellingham community. This support was not only regarding the initiatives themselves, but the potential for creating community power in Bellingham moving forward. 

PFB isn’t done. There is so much work to do. We hope by sharing our experience, data, and reflections we can onboard more folks and continue building our movement. We have the power to make Bellingham a more just and equitable city for all workers, renters, and families and we are so excited to continue this work with all of you!

Sam Wambold [he/him] is a food service worker and has been living in Bellingham for over 6 years. He’s currently at Western Washington studying to become a high school educator. Sam sits as electoral chair for the Whatcom Democratic Socialists of America and was engaged in People First Bellingham from the initiative writing process to the election day victories. 

Cleveland Harris II [he/him]: Raised in Seattle, Cleveland initially moved to Bellingham in 2004 to study at Western Washington University. He graduated in 2009 with a BA in Political Science. After graduating, he relocated to Portland, working for Portland Public Schools as a Para-educator and IT Technical Support Advocate. He relocated back to Bellingham in 2018, where he continues to work in the IT field. Current Co-Chair of Whatcom Democratic Socialist of America has recently worked on the Defund BPD and the People First Bellingham campaigns. 

Andrew Hansen [he/him]: Born and raised in Whatcom County, Andrew has spent the last year and a half organizing with Whatcom Democratic Socialists of America. People First Bellingham was the first time he was involved in a campaign from its inception, all the way to the end. The lessons he learned over the course of the campaign are invaluable, and he’s excited to share what he’s learned about empowering an intersectional working class. Andrew is currently the Vice Chair, and Ecosocialism Committee chair, of WDSA. He works in manufacturing, and attends Whatcom Community College.

Maya Morales [she/they] is an artist, educator, and organizer. She’s passionate about a million things, but equity and social justice are always at the top of that list. She holds undergraduate degrees in Gender Studies and Art, as well as a Master’s in Education with a focus on Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). In her ideal world, everyone has a home, everyone has good food, and everyone is welcome. Volunteering with People First Bellingham is one way Maya is working toward that locally.

Sage Jones [she/her] is an organizer with Whatcom DSA who helped found People First Bellingham to strengthen direct democracy in our community and bring power to the working class. She serves on DSA’s National Electoral Committee and is passionate about municipalism, relational organizing, and rank and file strategy. “Through a strong coalition of progressive organizations and a united struggle, we can expand the rights of workers, renters, and other exploited communities. A better world is possible.”

Seth Mangold [he/him] has been a worker, political organizer and renter in Bellingham for nearly a decade. He has been a part of People First Bellingham since its conception; from drafting, to coalition building, signature gathering and direct voter contact.