By Danielle Bongiovanni
What do Woodbridge, Cherry Hill, North Brunswick, Teaneck, and Long Branch have in common? Their form of government allows anyone to place an initiative on the ballot if it is supported by a set number of registered voters. This summer, a nonprofit organization, Food & Water Watch, is using direct democracy to implement a clean energy initiative in these towns, and victory is within reach.
The organization combats issues regarding the food system, clean water, and the climate across the country. F&WW utilizes the power of the people by mobilizing individuals to uplift political causes and support campaigns to ensure safe living conditions are not sacrificed for corporate profits.
The organization’s current fight centers on putting a 100% clean energy ordinance on the ballot of five aforementioned NJ municipalities. If the ordinance passes, Community Choice Aggregation programs would form and enable the local governments to purchase bundles of clean energy for residents. CCA programs allow towns to switch to renewable sources for electricity without altering the existing utility provider, maintenance, or billing.
F&WW organizing fellows collect signatures from registered voters to meet the referendum requirement through creative and varied approaches. Cold calling, door-to-door canvassing, and putting up informative posters are all ways they have been gathering support.
When asked what drew them to this work, Rey Watson replied, “I joined Food & Water Watch because it was an opportunity to make a real difference in my local community. Our organization is actively engaging with the public and fighting for policy changes that will benefit both the people and the planet. We need bold change in order to ensure a livable future for my generation, and I am excited to be a part of making that change happen.”
The campaign requires dedication, but the fellows’ passion matches their patience, and their efforts are paying off. F&WW fellows recently passed the quarter milestone for their total goal, having collected over 1,500 signatures from across the five municipalities.
Zettie Shapey, a Clean Energy Climate Organizer, could not be more proud of her fellows. “I have loved working on a campaign where winning feels so within reach– I really do think we’ll win. It’s a rare and exciting thing to enter into a project fighting towards justice of any kind and feel almost certain that we’ll succeed- it feels powerful and exhilarating. I can’t wait to throw a party when we win and celebrate the hard work of the young people who worked so hard to win their communities clean energy,” she said.
Signatures are due by July 14 and the organizing fellows have a long way to go, but victory is possible with continued outreach efforts and support. If you are a registered voter in Woodbridge, Cherry Hill, Teaneck, Long Branch, or North Brunswick, sign and share the petition to ensure clean energy is available to everyone. If this cause speaks to you, Food & Water Watch is still hiring organizing fellows regardless of where you are from or what previous job experience you have.