Published : Wednesday, December 18, 2019 | 7:36 AM
The Progressive Discussion Group will present its fourth annual Progressive Achievement awards to two longtime Pasadena community activists Friday, December 20 at 9 a.m. at DuPars Restaurant. Ralph Hurtado is being recognized with the Lifetime Progressive Achievement Award and Jill Shook is being acknowledged as the 2019 Progressive of the Year.
Hurtado is a long time Pasadena political activist, community organizer, and progressive fund raiser and philanthropist. His political activism spans 50 years. After managing the Pasadena McGovern headquarters in 1972, he co-founded ACT with Lorraine Stinson and was its first co-chair. ACT, a verb not an acronym, has flourished as a local political action group changing the election of Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley local, state and federal legislators from red to blue.
In 2008 he again co-managed along with Jon Fuhrman the United Democratic Headquarters (UDH) leading up to the successful election of Barack Obama. Besides raising record sums of money, the headquarters turned out near record numbers of local registered voters, over 80% in some precincts. The headquarters had so many volunteers it was instrumental in getting out the vote for Democratic candidates in Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.
Beyond politics, Hurtado’s passion has been working with young men and women. He has helped set up model programs that successfully mentored 100s of youth in communities as diverse as Northwest Pasadena, Los Angeles, the East Bay, and Denver. He’s also worked on All Saints Church Foster Care project. In 2018, one of Ralph’s mentees helped manage Gil Cisneros successful campaign in California’s 39th District as part of the Blue Wave.
During the 90s, Hurtado’s organizing work with the Long Beach YMCA Community Board resulted in the awarding of over $25 million in grants to the organization. Locally he has led efforts to raise funds for El Centro de Accion Social, the Pasadena City College Latino Advisory Committee, and countless elected officials.
His personal philanthropy has extended to paying off college student debt of young activists, funding a community organizer to work with the Mothers at Madison School, and donating to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.
Joining Hurtado at the award table will be Jill Shook, Executive Director of Making Housing and Community Happen (MHCH). After years of organizing faith-based communities and local non-profits around the twin issues of affordable housing and permanent supportive housing for the homeless, Shook’s group and its community allies achieved several stunning legislative victories in Pasadena during 2019.
Due in large part to her team’s organizing efforts, the City Council amended the City’s Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance to increase the affordable housing units in new developments from 15% to 20%. Shook and MHCH successfully advocated for 134 units of permanent supportive housing at Heritage Square South and the Salvation Army property.
Shook, Fuller Alumni, and other community activists worked with the City to enforce its agreement with Fuller to preserve 169 affordable housing units near the Fuller campus. Though the units are currently designated for students, according to the agreement originally signed between the City and Fuller, the units will become affordable housing for the community should students ever leave.
Through the efforts of Shook and Anthony Manoussos, Shook’s husband, MHCH has organized a weekly prayer vigil in front of the former YWCA. Their efforts are focused on the need for more affordable housing units in the civic center area as well as preserving the architectural heritage of the former Y.
For the past several months, members of MHCH have appeared weekly to make public comment at City Council meetings in favor of a developer proposal to rehabilitate the Y and build over 90 units of affordable housing, half for the homeless.
As a result of Shook’s leadership and direction, community members have become educated on housing policy. During the past year, MHCH has organized monthly educational forums on gentrification, theology of land and housing, community land trusts, rent rontrol and other tenant protections, and the trauma of homelessness.
Shook believes that by learning to tell their housing stories in public, residents feel empowered to take ownership and advocate for workable housing solutions.