Rebuilding the infrastructure of democracy

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http://www.heightsobserver.org/read/2017/03/30/rebuilding-the-infrastructure-of-democracy

by Greg Coleridge

From the local to the global, the ability of people to govern ourselves has been under assault for many decades. We can expect this to intensify for multiple reasons, including:

• Business corporations seeking huge profits by converting what once had been “public” to “private” (called privatization, though a more descriptive term would be “corporatization”), including traditional public assets such as water and sewer systems, roads, police and fire protection, airports, hospitals and schools.
• Individuals looking to increase their power, status and/or privileges by concentrating decision-making from many (“We the People” and government) to a few (their own) hands.
• Continual legal and constitutional definitions that further restrict and redefine “public” arenas as other “p” words: private, property, proprietary, privileged—and thus [place them] beyond the reach of public planning, shaping and evaluation.
• A national government that uses the excuse of “terrorism” to stifle dissent, intimidate dissenters and interrupt efforts of self-determination, even at the local level.
• A culture that tells us public policies are too complicated for ordinary people to understand (thus restricting policymaking to “experts”); distracts public attention from self-determination, toward the trivial and inane; worships “the market” as the sole route to financial and economic salvation; defines economic arenas as outside the scope of public input; erases the memory of historical examples of citizen control and self-governance; denigrates anything that is “public” as inefficient, wasteful, outdated and dangerous; celebrates anything “private” as efficient, modern and safe; and encourages social isolation, keeping us from learning from each other and organizing to (re)assert meaningful changes.

There is another side to this—an existing democratic/self-determination culture or “infrastructure” that perhaps many of us seldom think about. Alternatives to corporations, corporate governance and elite control exist right now in our communities and states.

Scores of documents, policies, institutions, structures and groups reflecting inclusiveness, accountability and responsibility are commonplace—[and provide] examples [of] where those who are affected by decisions and policies have a legitimate role in the making of those decision—or could [have] if we made the effort. They are where “We the People” have a voice—or could if we merely flexed our self-determination muscles.

Examples of a democratic infrastructure abound right here in the Heights, including:

• A legacy of active citizen engagement over many decades, on many issues, through block or street groups and communitywide campaigns.
• Municipal charters (our local constitutions) defining the cities’ overarching governing rules, including provisions for charter amendments.
• Council elections, open and televised meetings, public records, and multiple boards and commissions composed of citizens who advise and assist our city councils.
• Public fire, police, water and other basic municipal services.
• Municipal courts and citizen juries.
• A public library system.
• Public schools with an elected school board, active engagement of parents and even a student union.
• Labor unions of city workers, teachers and others.
• This publication, the Heights Observer, a volunteer, not-for-profit hyper-local news source.
• P.E.A.C.E. Park and other public spaces where events that build community occur.
• Vibrant groups of residents, such as Noble Neighbors and the Cain Park Neighborhood Association, who have formed to fight foreclosures and revitalize their neighborhoods.
• Community gardens and the City Fresh community supported agricultural (CSA) program.
• Nearby community credit unions, which, unlike banks, are member-owned and governed.
• Active social action or change organizations, including Sustainable Heights Network, Heights Community Congress, the Heights Coalition for Public Education, Reaching Heights and FutureHeights.

It’s all too easy to take the above examples for granted, even if some are not (yet) perfect democratic expressions. When we fail to utilize or be involved in them, they will wither and die or will be manipulated, eliminated, replaced or co-opted by corporations, top-down government and/or the powerful few.

To really make the Heights the “Heights of Democracy” will require us all to be actively engaged in strengthening our democratic infrastructure.

Guest columnist Greg Coleridge, a Cleveland Heights resident, is coordinator of the Move to Amend Ohio Campaign and writer of the blog Create Real Democracy (https://createrealdemocracy.wordpress.com). He can be reached at gcoleridge1@gmail.com.

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Move to Amend Reports on Progress and Actions From the National Conventions

August 11, 2016

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Move to Amend Reports connects you with activists and organizers working on the frontlines of the democracy movement, to bring you the lowdown on corporate rule, corporate personhood, and money as speech.

TUNE IN EVERY THURSDAY MORNING AT 7am PACIFIC / 10am EASTERN. Click here to listen to this week’s show!

While millions of people were tuned in for the political party conventions in Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Houston as the presidential Move to Amend was on the ground connecting and building relationships with activists and organizers from across the political spectrum. Join us for a special report on Move to Amend’s activities during the Conventions with Move to Amend Ohio coordinator Greg Coleridge, Imam Paul Hasan of the American Friends Services Committee, Move to Amend outreach & engagement director David Cobb, Move to Amend National Leadership members Daniel Lee and Egberto Willies (Move to Amend Reports co-host), who served as a Houston delegate to the DNC.

Greg Coleridge is Director of the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee (AFSC, a Quaker social action organization), member of the national Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy (POCLAD) collective, author of Citizens over Corporation: A Brief History of Democracy in Ohio and Challenges to Freedom in the Future, writer of the documentary CorpOrNation: The Story of Citizens and Corporations in Ohio, lead researcher of two online calendars on democracy and monetary history, and former elected national board member of Common Cause. He also helps coordinate and expand the Move to Amend Ohio Network.

Imam Paul Hasan of Interfaith Ministries in Lorain, OH, has spent more than 20 years dedicated to building the community from the inside out while promoting peace and justice. Paul was a founding member of the nationally known International Council for Urban Peace, Justice and Empowerment. He founded the official Lorain County organizing committee for the Holy Day of Atonement in 1995. Paul is a Northeast Ohio AFSC Committee Member and long-time community activist in Northeast Ohio.

David Cobb is a Principal with the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy. He is a lawyer and political activist. David has sued corporate polluters, lobbied elected officials, run for political office himself, and has been arrested for non-violent civil disobedience. In 2002, David ran for Attorney General of Texas, pledging to use the office to revoke the charters of corporations that repeatedly violate health, safety and environmental laws. In 2004, he ran for President of the United States on the Green Party ticket and successfully campaigned for the Ohio recount. He is also National Projects Director for Democracy Unlimited.

Daniel Lee has been with Move to Amend since 2012. A veteran of the United States Air Force and Air National Guard, Daniel has been an active member of Occupy Los Angeles and InterOccupy who participated in Occupy encampments across the country, the Black Lives Matter Movement as well as done community organizing locally in Los Angeles with Community Coalition and other groups. He has also served locally on the Culver City Martin Luther King jr. Celebration Committee for the last 5 years and is the current chair and has been a volunteer with El Rincon Elementary, also in Culver City, for the last 10 years. Daniel is also the Move to Amend representative for the Global Climate Convergence and recently campaigned for a seat on the City Council in Culver City, a small city in West Los Angeles.

Egberto Willies is a political activist, author, political blogger, business owner, software developer, web designer, and mechanical engineer in Kingwood, TX. Egberto is a member of Move to Amend’s National Leadership Team, co-host of Move to Amend Reports, and Vice President on the Board of Directors for Coffee Party USA.

People’s Justice & Peace Convention in Cleveland, July 15-17

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Join us for the People’s Justice & Peace Convention

July 15-16, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, 8712 Quincy Ave., Cleveland
July 17, Masonic Auditorium, 3615 Euclid Ave., Cleveland

Open to the public. Free (donations accepted). Registration required.
Register online at http://www.pjpc2016.org/register—contact-us.html
Detailed information at http://www.pjpc2016.org

Current public policies disproportionately benefit corporations and the wealthiest individuals and promote and expand U.S. militarism, while the concerns of the vast majority of people are ignored, distorted and/or manipulated for political and/or economic gain. The People’s Convention will include a diversity of voices and experiences, transcending any one political party or perspective. Its purpose is to lift up issues and problems that the Republican National Convention (RNC) will not authentically address and to develop collectively agreed-to solutions, a “People’s Justice & Peace Platform,” that will achieve just, nonviolent, democratic and sustainable results.

Speakers • Workshops • Edutainment • Participatory development of “People’s Justice & Peace Platform” to be presented to both the RNC and Democratic National Convention (DNC)

Speakers:
• Michael Eric Dyson, Academic, Author, Radio Host and Professor
• Connie Burton, Poor People’s Advocate
• Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Hip Hop Caucus President and CEO
• Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink

Workshops and Plank development in 5 areas:
• Racial and Social justice
• Economic Justice
• Environmental justice
• Political justice
• International justice

Also: Saturday afternoon educational workshops and continuous showing of “The Fixers,” a collaborative film series about democratic process, public policy and who tells Cleveland’s story during the 2016 RNC.

Conveners:

Black-on-Black Crime, CAIR-Cleveland, The Carl Stokes Brigade, Cleveland Human & Civil Rights Coalition, Cleveland Nonviolence Network, Cleveland Peace Action, InterReligious Task Force on Central America, NE Ohio American Friends Service Committee, Northeast Ohio Industrial Workers of the World, Organize Ohio, Peace In The Hood, Faith Communities Together for a Sustainable Future (FaCT), NE Ohio Sierra Club and others…

Register online at http://www.pjpc2016.org/register—contact-us.html
Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pjpc2016

For information on additional RNC-related actions/events: http://www.counterrnc2016.org/index.html

Interview with Lee Brooker, Kent Citizens for Democracy

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Listen to the interview here

Interview with Lee Brooker, facilitator of Kent Citizens for Democracy. The group waged a successful citizen initiative campaign, despite opposition from the City of Kent, to place a measure on the November ballot calling for an annual “Democracy Day” public hearing on money in elections and for a Congressional Constitutional Amendment to end corporate personhood and money as speech. The initiative passed with 64% of the vote. Lee discusses the issues, the campaign, the challenge before the Ohio Supreme Court, and lessons learned for other communities.

Presentation of Local Move to Amend Leaders on Organizing Successful Ballot Initiative Campaigns

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Frank Hribar from Mentor, Judy Kramer from Chagrin Falls, Carla Rautenberg from Cleveland Heights and Rose & Jack Petsche from Brecksville speak at the Shaker Heights Move to Amend meeting on December 4, 2014.

http://afsc.org/video/presentation-local-move-amend-leaders-organizing-successful-ballot-initiative-campaigns