Politics & Elections

A conversation with Cranston Forward – a new, resident-driven PAC focused on Cranston government

“I want to build the community I want my kids to grow up in,” said Cranston Forward co-chair Vilna Tejeda.
Photo for A conversation with Cranston Forward – a new, resident-driven PAC focused on Cranston government

Published on March 14, 2021
By Steve Ahlquist

The community organizing group Cranston Forward proudly announced its formation as a Political Action Committee (PAC) with the mission to organize and advocate to ensure resident engagement in city government. The organization was formed by a multi-generational, racially, ethnically and politically diverse group of residents from across Cranston. The goal of Cranston Forward is to organize Cranstonians to advance policies and support leaders responsive to the needs of residents, particularly in Cranston communities that have been left out of the decision making process.

See the full video of the conversation below.

“Cranston Forward is a brand new group. We’ve been organizing for the last few months together this off the ground. It’s meant to bring the voice of the residents of Cranston to our government, particularly at the city level,” said Michael Beauregard, who serves as Cranston Forward’s Treasurer. “We wanted to make sure that the resident’s voice is being heard, but we also felt there’s a need for a conscious effort to be more inclusive, with an eye towards representing the diversity of the city.”

Cranston Forward’s vision is a Cranston city government that is inclusive, transparent and responsive to the community’s needs. Cranston Forward will also support policies that are equitable and economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable, and a government that facilitates social justice and identifies solutions among people and parties of differing viewpoints.

Vilna Tejeda has been a resident of Cranston for about three and a half years. “When it was time for an election I wanted to be better informed,” she said, “so I started calling people who are running and asking them ‘Why should I vote for you?'”

Vilna is one of two co-chairs of Cranston Forward, along with Norly Germain. “As a new resident with a young family I wanted to invest in [in a group] whose values are in line with my family.” When Vilna heard about the formation of Cranston Forward, she was excited to get involved. “I want to build the community I want my kids to grow up in.”

The other co-chair, Norly Germain, “had the opportunity to live on both sides of Cranston, the east and the west. My kids went to preschool in the West Side of Cranston but when my wife and I decided it was time to buy a house … we settled down in Edgewood which is on the East Side of Cranston.” After moving Germain noticed that the schools were very different – not in terms of the quality of the teaching, but with the maintenance of the schools themselves and the allocation of city dollars.

The organization will announce its 2021 policy priorities in the coming month. They will include issues affecting diversity, equity and inclusion in the areas of education, sustainable community development, and environmental and social justice.

James Lyons is on the diversity committee and says that one easy way the committee can have an immediate impact is by supporting and strengthening the recently formed Cranston Diversity Commission, making sure that “the goal of the Diversity Commission actually happens… We see this as an entry way for Cranston Forward to become involved.”

Katie Richard and Giona Balvega are on the Elections and Community Committee. “One thing we are considering working on is the whole prison redistricting issue that’s coming up soon,” said Richard. “My goal for the committee is to try to get people involved.”

“Another, more broad goal of this committee is to keep the community engaged with what’s going on in the city throughout the year rather than every two years around elections,” said Balvega.

To learn more about how to get involved, or to become a member, visit CranstonForward.org. Becoming a voting member of Cranston Forward requires completing the member code of conduct, and paying of sliding scale annual dues or requesting a waiver (for anyone where cost would be a barrier). People who are not ready to become members but who want to learn about advocacy opportunities can sign up to receive action alerts on the website.

UpriseRI spoke via Zoom with some the members of the inaugural board of directors, elected democratically by the resident organizing committee of people who came together to form Cranston Forward. Those who were able to join the conversation included Co-Chairs Norly Germain and Vilna Tejeda, Treasurer Michael Beauregard, Secretary Giona Balvega and Board Members James Lyons and Katie Richard. Board Members Karen Rosenberg, Miya Lohmeier and Tara Quinn were not available to join the conversation.

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