Small is the New Big

If we want to make big changes in the era of politics, then we need to go small.  And by small, I mean local.

One of the gifts of our nation is the Federalist system – the division of power between federal and state government.  There is so much that can happen on a local level, and this is where citizens have the most power to directly influence the laws and regulations being passed.

For 10 years I worked to end our nation’s drug war.  I know the success working locally can have.  Before states legalized marijuana, changes were made at the city level.  Beginning with decriminalization measures and building up to legalization.  We have now seen change in the U.S. and internationally.

I’ve sat in many city council and board of supervisor meetings.  A lot happens there that directly affects your life– where you can park and how much it costs, what you can build and where (including on your own property), the funding and support that schools receive, police policies and citizen oversight committees, resource allocation for fire and police departments, the cost of your water and other utilities, the list goes on…

Not everything is sexy and exciting, but it’s where the action is.  Many municipalities do not hear from their constituents nearly as much as they would like.  Your voice goes a long way.

Cities and towns also network and share best practices and resources, so what happens in one city, can easily multiply.  49 of our 50 states have municipal League of Cities, along with a National League of Cities.  Everything we do locally has a ripple effect.

And here are some examples of what’s possible…

Beginning with my favorite:
Grant Township, a small community of 700 people in Western Pennsylvania, is facing the threat of fracking, so they legalized direct action, aka nonviolent civil disobedience, as a preemptive move to protect its citizens from arrest.  Thank you Yes! Magazine for reporting the good news!

In contrast, there’s this:
The State of North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Water Protectors have been facing off with authorities over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) for months, passed a state law that legalized police drones to carry non-lethal weapons.  

Note: “non-lethal” weapons used by police (from the ground) have blinded and maimed water protectors, and include things like concussion grenades and rubber bullets.

The power of ballot measures:
In 2016, Oregon voters passed two measures on education – one to fund career and college readiness programs and the other to fund outdoor education programs

Meanwhile in AZ:
A bill has been introduced to ban classes on white privilege from Arizona schools, with a penalty of a 10% cut in funding for schools that don’t comply.

Divesting from Prisons:
Berkeley City Council voted in July 2016 to divest from private prisons.  In America, the land of the “free,” we have more prisoners than any other country.  It’s turned big business.  Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, is an essential read to understanding the prison system today.

Divesting from DAPL Banks:
Seattle and Minneapolis have begun to take steps to divest from Wells Fargo, a major backer of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Seattle has a $3 billion banking relationship.  $28 million in personal accounts have already been divested.  You can divest too.

What is it you want to create in your local community?