Suzan DelBene speaking at NPI's 2013 Spring Fundraising Gala
Suzan DelBene speaking at NPI's 2013 Spring Fundraising Gala (Photo: Lincoln Potter/Samaya LLC)

Today is the fif­teen year anniver­sary of the found­ing of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, which pub­lish­es this blog, the Cas­ca­dia Advocate.

At the time I start­ed the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, I had been work­ing in oppo­si­tion to Tim Eyman’s ini­tia­tive fac­to­ry for about a year and a half. Dur­ing those eigh­teen months, I made two impor­tant discoveries:

  1. It’s not enough to be against bad poli­cies and bad actors like Tim Eyman and Don­ald Trump, nor is it sat­is­fy­ing to be on defense all of the time. Peo­ple want to know what you are for — how you’d gov­ern if giv­en the chance.
  2. A mas­sive infra­struc­ture gap exist­ed (and arguably still exists) between the right wing and the pro­gres­sive movement.

These dis­cov­er­ies were very unsettling.

Towards the end of this eigh­teen month peri­od, George W. Bush ordered Amer­i­can troops to invade Iraq under false pre­tens­es — an action that Con­gress could have and should have opposed, but end­ed up going along with.

The inva­sion of Iraq helped gal­va­nize what the late Mol­ly Ivins called “the great lib­er­al back­lash of 2003”, which saw the found­ing of sev­er­al new nation­al pro­gres­sive orga­ni­za­tions and the strength­en­ing of many exist­ing ones.

Draw­ing inspi­ra­tion from what I saw hap­pen­ing at the fed­er­al lev­el, I decid­ed to do my part to build pro­gres­sive infra­struc­ture here in the Pacif­ic North­west, fig­ur­ing that our long term suc­cess absolute­ly depend­ed on it.

As Gand­hi said, you must be the change you want to see in the world. 

Those wise words still ring true today. I could­n’t find a cen­ter for pro­gres­sive thought work­ing to equip activists with the intel­li­gence need­ed to advance pro­gres­sive caus­es, so I start­ed build­ing one.

And a decade and a half lat­er, NPI remains under construction.

At the time it was found­ed, NPI had no mon­ey, no mail­ing list, no board, and no resources. All it had that first day was a web presence.

It would be a whole ‘nother year and a half before NPI was legal­ly estab­lished as a non­prof­it cor­po­ra­tion. Talk about a hum­ble beginning!

Today, NPI is a valu­able cen­ter of pro­gres­sive thought for the Pacif­ic North­west, serv­ing activists, can­di­dates, elect­ed lead­ers, jour­nal­ists, and the public.

We con­duct research to gauge sup­port for pro­gres­sive ideas using sur­veys of our own design, pro­vide essen­tial intel­li­gence to elect­ed lead­ers and bal­lot mea­sure coali­tions work­ing to advance pro­gres­sive caus­es, and active­ly lob­by for rev­enue reform and neglect­ed caus­es that hard­ly any­body else is work­ing on — like fund­ing for geo­log­ic haz­ards research, which was one of our 2018 leg­isla­tive priorities.

We devel­op and main­tain nifty tools like our State­house Bill Track­er and Pacif­ic NW Por­tal to help activists make sense of the leg­isla­tive and elec­toral landscapes.

And, of course, through our Per­ma­nent Defense project, we con­tin­ue to give Tim Eyman the vig­or­ous, year-round oppo­si­tion that he deserves.

Last month, on July 12th, the val­ue of our many capa­bil­i­ties was on full dis­play when we held a press con­fer­ence in Seat­tle with Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son and five state leg­is­la­tors (Man­ka Dhin­gra, Jamie Ped­er­sen, Roger Good­man, Lau­rie Jink­ins, and our own Gael Tar­leton) to announce our find­ing that 69% of Wash­ing­to­ni­ans sur­veyed pre­fer life in prison alter­na­tives to the death penal­ty.

Bit by bit, NPI has been turn­ing into the refram­ing hub and cen­ter for strate­gic pro­gres­sive thought and long term think­ing that I con­clud­ed our region need­ed all the way back in 2003. That would not have hap­pened with­out the com­mit­ment of a great many peo­ple. As they say, it takes a village.

Nobody makes it on their own… there are no self-made indi­vid­u­als in this coun­try or any­where else, for this mat­ter. We know this to be true because we are pro­gres­sives. Empa­thy and mutu­al respon­si­bil­i­ty are our core val­ues. We all get by with help from our friends… and our fam­i­lies… and our community.

The com­mu­ni­ty of peo­ple who have come togeth­er to build NPI is tru­ly incred­i­ble. To those Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate read­ers who have donat­ed to sup­port NPI’s work, thank you. I also want to rec­og­nize our cur­rent board and staff — Gael, Robert, Rick, Essie, Mario, Gar­rett, Diane, Kei­tha, Ren­nie, Greg, David, There­sa, Tam­mi, Ali­son, Caitlin, Brad, and Sungea — for their essen­tial and invalu­able con­tri­bu­tions, as well as our mem­bers, who donate annu­al­ly or month­ly to sup­port NPI.

Every­one who is a dues-pay­ing mem­ber (includ­ing our awe­some Com­mon­wealth Bond­hold­ers) has played a spe­cial and instru­men­tal role in NPI’s development.

If you are not a mem­ber, I invite you to take the next step and become one today. It’s easy: just fol­low this link and select a giv­ing lev­el, then com­plete the one-page form. You can choose to donate annu­al­ly or month­ly as a Bond­hold­er. Even five dol­lars a month real­ly helps.

At NPI, we are experts at stretch­ing a dol­lar, so each mem­ber­ship rep­re­sents great val­ue to us. Every time a new mem­ber signs up is a cause for celebration.

We val­ue all our mem­bers indi­vid­u­al­ly as opposed to only the cumu­la­tive pow­er of lots of peo­ple giv­ing small amounts.

When you become a mem­ber, you’re mak­ing a com­mit­ment to invest in NPI’s work.

That com­mit­ment is what dri­ves our team to con­tin­ue lay­ing more bricks and reach­ing for new heights. And no mat­ter what your giv­ing lev­el is, we will put your dues pay­ment to work to accom­plish pro­gres­sive change. Count on it.

This Sun­day is our Fif­teenth Anniver­sary Pic­nic at Red­mond’s Per­ri­go Park. Cool­er marine air is rolling into the region and dis­plac­ing the tox­ic smoke that has enveloped our region for much of the month. (Those east of the Cas­cades will unfor­tu­nate­ly have to wait a bit longer for relief.) The fore­cast for this week­end calls for cool­er tem­per­a­tures and maybe even a few rain showers.

Giv­en the smoky, yucky weath­er we’ve expe­ri­enced, we’re not com­plain­ing. We for­tu­nate­ly have the biggest pic­nic shel­ter in Red­mond, so there will be plen­ty of room under cov­er in the event it hap­pens to be rain­ing on Sun­day evening. We are still accept­ing RSVPs for the pic­nic and we’d love to see you there.

If you will be join­ing us at Per­ri­go Park on Sun­day evening, then I look for­ward to shar­ing some excit­ing and hap­py news about NPI’s future and the future of pro­gres­sive infra­struc­ture devel­op­ment at that time.

Again, read­ers, thank you so much for being part of the NPI com­mu­ni­ty and for every­thing you do for pro­gres­sive caus­es. The strug­gle con­tin­ues. Let’s keep keep­ing on… we are the last, best hope for those com­ing after us.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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