Austin Young Democrats call students to action to push progressive agendas

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Jamarr Brown tells government senior Mrinalini Shah about his advocacy organization at an Austin Young Democrats event.
Photo Credit: Juan Figueroa | Daily Texan Staff

Faced with a Republican-majority state Legislature, Texas Young Democrats and Austin Young Democrats hosted an event Tuesday night at Wright Bros. Brew and Brew to promote progressive policies on the municipal level.

“We want to keep this about local issues, and although we are a blue concentration in a very red state, we want to set the standard and move forward,” said Jen Ramos, the deputy communications director for Texas Young Democrats.

Volunteers from activism groups in favor of abortion rights and workers’ unions encouraged attendees to urge City Council members and state representatives to push progressive agendas.

Government senior Mrinalini Shah said people should be more attentive to politics that affect them on a local level, such as public school boards and the Austin City Council.

“Once I left the state and worked in the federal level … I kind of realized how important grassroots activism and just local politics in general is,” Shah said. “I almost in a sense felt guilty because I was like 11 streets away from the Capitol, but I had never really engaged with my state legislators.”

Currently, Republican congressional members are fighting to repeal the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood. A federal judge heard Texas’ case to oust Planned Parenthood from the state’s Medicaid program Tuesday, a move which is set to occur Saturday.

Planned Parenthood Texas Votes is an advocacy organization that contacts elected officials to expand preventative and reproductive services for women. Field Director Jamarr Brown said the move to defund Planned Parenthood is part of the overall targeting of healthcare programs for low-income individuals.

“Specifically Medicaid is for low-income people and so … we want to make sure we can adequately provide quality healthcare to people and also make sure healthcare is affordable,” Brown said.

Event attendees also disapproved of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s bill to require transgender individuals to use the bathroom based on the sex reflected on their birth certificate.

Patrick said allowing people to use whichever public bathroom would encourage sexual predators to enter women’s restrooms. Shah said Patrick’s bill is discriminating against transgender individuals.

“I think that just the fact that Dan Patrick is prioritizing a bathroom bill over other more salient and important conversations that we could be having is not only frustrating but also terrifying because it’s a huge threat to LGBT rights,” Shah said.

Two new Democrats, Jimmy Flannigan of District 6 and Alison Alter of District 10, joined the Austin City Council. Flannigan replaced conservative voice Don Zimmerman, and Alter unseated Sheri Gallo. 

“I’m always excited for fresh, new voices in the Democratic party, and especially at the local level because it’s really important,” Shah said.

State Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, and City Council members Greg Casar of District 4 and Delia Garza of District 2 could not attend the event.