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Coalition Leads Charge For Change

Massapequa-based group works for progressive future

Social change rarely comes out of an elected politician’s office without a little prodding from the wide end of a protestor’s megaphone.

Gentle prodding is the standard operating procedure of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, a grassroots community organization in Massapequa. Born on the eve of the Reagan administration in 1979, the coalition, a collection of citizen activists, seeks to be a voice of opposition to social and environmental injustice.

“Our hope, the progressive hope, is to find and endorse candidates, no matter the party, who have democratic justice in their hearts,” said Lisa Tyson, the director of LIPC. “It matters who is elected and that is why we endorse. The ideal politician is someone we never have to call.”

Most elected officials can expect a call from the LIPC on any number of issues including education, affordable housing, government efficiency, energy, sustainable development and fair elections, the latter of which Tyson said involves flushing the influence of special interest lobbyists from the decision-making process in government.

Tyson said the LIPC works to inform and involve citizens to elect strong-willed politicians who will not bend easily to influence.

“Elections are the one day every two to four years that elected officials need something from the community,” she said. “We beg them to vote for legislation we need, but Election Day is the one day we have the power over them and they need us.”

The LIPC is stationed on Pennsylvania Avenue in a house donated to the organization in 1994 by longtime Massapequa activist Katharine Smith. Smith, an early supporter of civil rights in the 1960s and champion of numerous social movements, was active until her death in 1997 at the age of 104.

One of the Coalition’s recent rallies surely would have made the spry Smith proud. Early in June, the LIPC led a rally in front of Senator Dean Skelos’ office in Rockville Center. The goal was to prod the Senate into voting on the Women’s Equality Act as one piece of legislation, rather than 10 separate pieces.

“Having separate pieces allows them to single out reproductive rights and vote against it,” said Tyson, adding that the bill never passed because the senate did not vote on the reproductive part of the legislation. “A vote against reproductive rights takes us backwards. And we can’t survive if we’re going backwards.”

Tyson would like to see Long Island, and New York State at large, continue to move forward in all social aspects, including who is voted into office.

“We need more women and more people of color in office,” she said. “We need to change the status quo of governing because the status quo is not working.”

Tyson said the LIPC welcomes volunteers and concerned citizens who wish to learn more about what they can do.

“We’ve come a long way but we could be doing a lot better,” she said. “We might get kicked, we might lose, but we are always going to come back, change our strategy if we have to, and keep going.”