Sunday Commentary: The Rise of the New Progressives

Eric Gudz announced his run for city council this week

In our Monday Morning Thoughts, as we perused the large and growing field of candidates, we indicated the shift to what I have called “New Progressives” – candidates that have emphasized the need for social justice issues, but unlike the previously generation of progressives, would not be characterized as no-growthers.

In the past I have talked about the emergence of the new progressive wing in Davis. Since last November, we have seen the rise in this new progressive movement of groups like the Yolo Progressives, the Berniecrats, and Indivisible Yolo, along with the Phoenix Coalition and some of the groups that have emerged with the policing issue.

Unlike the 1970s progressive movement, this is not environmentally-based, and it’s not land use-based. Instead, it’s based around social justice and resistance to the Trump agenda.

The previous progressive movement was not originally associated with no-growth policies, but has become associated with them. The coup de grâce was Measure J which passed in 2000 after a period of fairly rapid growth in the 1980s and 1990s, which brought about a resurgence in progressive politics in Davis.

But some saw this as a mismatch between the interest in social justice and what the city really does.  Others countered that advocating for social justice at a municipal level was not mutually exclusive with good governance.

This week, Eric Gudz formally announced his run for council and launched a website with a rather detailed platform that illustrates very clearly the nexus between social justice issues on the one hand and a reformist minded Davis-specific municipal policy on the other hand.

A lot of people miss the nexus, for example, between land use and smart growth principals and social justice issues.  Eric Gudz’ platform captures this perfectly on the issues of housing, open space,
and renters’ rights.

On the housing crisis, he offers: “We can do more locally to meet the affordable housing needs of our community and provide better options to people of all backgrounds.”

On preserving neighborhood character and open space: “Davis’ ongoing commitment to responsible growth contributes greatly to our quality of life. Our development must remain community-driven and we must continue to invest in our neighborhoods, parks, and natural resources.”

On protecting the rights of tenants: “More than half of our residents rent; we need to prioritize their needs and address issues that have been plaguing this underserved population for decades.”

Eric Gudz also draws on the need to address revenue and economic development issues.

First he looks at roadway revitalization: “We need to update our infrastructure using cost-saving measures and continue leading the world by pioneering enhanced safety for our community’s bikeways.”

Second, on transit: “We will reaffirm our community commitment to public transportation.”

Third on innovation: “Incubating our Talented Populace. We must invigorate our startup spaces, empower our young entrepreneurs towards success, and remove the barriers to 21st century innovation – especially those facing individuals and groups with fewer resources.”

Finally he addresses key social justice issues:

Police Reform: “We must work with the entire community to design and institutionalize robust, independent citizen oversight of our community’s policing.”

Community Resources: “Our community needs to re-invest and modernize. We will develop community spaces for our most underserved and community broadband to give our students, businesses, and consumers the tools they need to excel in a digital world.”

Environmental Stewardship: “We will take bolder steps towards the protection of our natural environment and ensure that it remains a cornerstone in every policy of our community.”

This isn’t detailed policy analysis.  These are still “soundbites,” if you will.  But here he lays out a nine-point vision for Davis that takes a variety of current issues that we know, recognize and in some cases have discussed for years, and situates them within a social justice framework.

This isn’t a national agenda re-purposed locally – this is a local, municipal, Davis agenda that is informed by social justice concerns.  This is the direction of the New Progressive Movement.

The changes are subtle, but, clearly, while he wants to preserve “Davis’ commitment to responsible growth,” he also recognizes that we need to “do more locally to meet the affordable housing needs of our community and provide better options to people of all backgrounds.”

This certainly represents a shift from current policies toward policies that will address the housing crisis, including providing better options to people of all backgrounds.

Mr. Gudz at this point has not come out in favor of rent control, but his plank on the protection of the rights of tenants definitely lays the groundwork for such a move at a later point.

This shouldn’t be read as any sort of endorsement of Mr. Gudz or his policies.  Rather it illustrates what I think is a new direction in Davis politics, more informed by social justice concerns, but, as you can see, not radically different from current thinking.

However, I would argue that the the combination of core issues like the housing crisis and renters’ rights, combined with innovation and the need to revitalize our infrastructure, and finally the need for police reform and environmental stewardship, captures in essence the link between movement progressivism with local issues of import.

This platform represents a perfect illustration of molding the last ten years of local reform with the call for social justice and new progressivism.

Eric Gudz (second from right) joins protesters in front of the courthouse

While Mr. Gudz might be most strongly associated with his work on cannabis, he was one of the co-authors of the most recent UC Davis Travel Study.  He was also one of the protesters in front of the courthouse asking for the charges to be dropped against the Picnic Day 5.

This figures to be a different sort of campaign with a whole host of candidates that figure to push Davis in a new direction – and perhaps not so radically as you might think.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Eventbrite:


Come see the Vanguard Event – “In Search of Gideon” – which highlights some of the key work performed by the Yolo County Public Defender’s Office…

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts

25 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: The Rise of the New Progressives”

  1. Keith O

    Mr. Gudz at this point has not come out in favor of rent control, but his plank on the protection of the rights of tenants definitely lays the groundwork for such a move at a later point.

    So David, is this the candidate that you referred to in an earlier article that is going to run on rent control?

  2. Roberta Millstein

    As someone who was a strong Bernie supporter and who continues to support Bernie’s progressive movement, I can state with confidence that you are getting two things wrong.  First, Bernie stated unequivocally that “Climate change is the single greatest threat facing our planet.”  In other words, he put environmental issues before other issues.  Second, a major theme — perhaps the major theme – of Bernie’s platform was anti-corporate.  To the extent that developers represent corporate-driven planning, someone who unquestionably goes along with developer’s plans is not a true Berniecrat.

    Basically, you are extrapolating from a few people in Davis and perhaps California to the national political scene, and that simply doesn’t work.

    Now, whether Eric ends up being more of a Berniecrat or someone who accepts developer’s proposals uncritically remains to be seen.

  3. Keith O

    I hope if we have candidates who are planning to push rent control would just come out and admit it prior to the election so us voters can make a more informed vote.

    1. Alan Miller

      I hope if we have candidates who are planning to push rent control would just come out and admit it prior to the election so us voters can make a more informed vote.

      It’s also possible that after reading the responses to the earlier trial balloon about rent control, they realized that jumping onto the tracks and grabbing the third rail results in fatal electrocution.

  4. Don Shor

    For many years Davis council majorities swung back and forth between “developer Democrats” and “no-growth Democrats.” With the passage of Measure J/R, growth became a less salient issue and no/slow growth candidates stopped running. They knew that annexation or rezoning automatically went to a vote, which they could almost certainly win (good track record so far on that), and they could tie up any other project with fights about the EIR, CEQA, burrowing owls, toxicity, or whatever else worked from the checklist of hot-button issues. I note that, again, there is no clear no-growth candidate so far declared or rumored for council.

    The problem with very ideological council members is the tendency to spend a great deal of council time on issues that aren’t directly related to governance of the city. There is a greater tendency to lose focus on fiscal issues and boring things like roads and park maintenance. I don’t care that much about where a candidate fits on the national political spectrum. I care whether he or she is pragmatic and looking for solutions to local problems.

    1. Keith O

      The problem with very ideological council members is the tendency to spend a great deal of council time on issues that aren’t directly related to governance of the city. There is a greater tendency to lose focus on fiscal issues and boring things like roads and park maintenance. I don’t care that much about where a candidate fits on the national political spectrum. I care whether he or she is pragmatic and looking for solutions to local problems.

      Hear, hear……

    2. Richard C

      There is a greater tendency to lose focus on fiscal issues and boring things like roads and park maintenance.

      Yes, that does seem to be the “Davis way” 😉

    3. Alan Miller

      The problem with very ideological council members is the tendency to spend a great deal of council time on issues that aren’t directly related to governance of the city.

      High five, brother D!  I’m getting an unexplainable urge to buy a cactus on 5th Street.

  5. Ron

    It would be more accurate to use the term “slow-growthers”, which nevertheless still include a range of views.  Don’t know anyone who believes that “no growth” is a realistic “goal”, at this point.

    However, on a broader level, “environmental stewardship” (as referenced in the article) will ultimately (and necessarily) need to reconcile this issue, as well.

    Ultimately, we’re not going to “smart growth” our way of this reality.

    1. David Greenwald

      Over the years many people have told that they are against any additional growth.  There are different variants of that – for some it is no peripheral growth, for some it is no new housing at yes.  Yes, I have had some very interesting conversations along these lines.

      Why do I use the term no-growth – because I believe there is a whole host of people in this community that will flat out oppose any Measure R project on principal and so they are functionally against any new growth.

  6. Alan Miller

    Don’t know anyone who believes that “no growth” is a realistic “goal”, at this point.

    How about “negative growthers”.   Their goal is to establish a “toxic soup” zone 1/4-mile on either side of I-80 and I-113 and bulldoze all buildings and plant an urban forest in its place.  All in the name of the ultra-sensitive lungs of college-age students.

    1. Ron

      Alan:  Not sure about that, but am starting to wonder if the much-maligned “toxic soup” phrase is appropriate (e.g., based upon the latest information presented).  Sure is a catchy phrase, at least.  🙂

  7. Alan Miller

    The Rise of the New Progressives

    Wouldn’t this better be named “The Rise of a New Progressive” ?   Plural implies more than one candidate will be showcased.

        1. Howard P

          It’s kinda’ like “mega-dorms”… “new progressives”… “alt-right”… you make up categories and definitions as you go… like Mc Mansions… who really knows what is meant?

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for