Welcome to Becoming a Citizen Activist ColumnI have been writing Citizenship Politics since September 1996, although it was published as Urban Politics up to September 2020. Initially, my focus was on Seattle and regional politics. Since leaving the Seattle Council, I’ve focused on national political and social trends. The Citizenship Politics newsletter is emailed out up to three times a month. As of April 2021, there are 10,000 subscribers; 70 percent are university faculty at over 250 universities and colleges throughout all fifty states. Subscribers can cancel at any time by replying “Unsubscribe Citizenship Politics” in the Subject Line. If you or a friend do not currently receive it, you can subscribe by scrolling down to the bottom of my home page http://www.becomingacitizenactivist.org and submitting your email address.

Category Archives: Urban Politics – U.S.

My Book Review of ‘Reclaiming Gotham’ – how cities can close the wealth gap

By | Urban Politics - U.S. | No Comments


Urban Politics – US – November 2, 2017

‘Reclaiming Gotham’: NYC a case study in a push for more affordable cities
by Nick Licata –  Special to The Seattle Times

Reclaiming Gotham by Gonzalez copy
Author Juan González uses New York City’s politics to illustrate how municipalities can take steps to make urban living more affordable for working families.

You can read the book review on the Seattle Times website here. Or Below.

The core premise of Juan González’s book “Reclaiming Gotham: Bill de Blasio and the Movement to End America’s Tale of Two Cities” is that the nation’s wealth and income gap have resulted in too many city dwellers struggling to pay rent and other necessary expenses. He argues that municipal governments can take dramatic steps to make urban living more affordable for working families.

González uses New York City’s politics to illustrate how that can happen. Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York saw the economy boom, with developers replacing huge, rundown inner-city neighborhoods with much higher costing housing for the influx of largely younger, wealthier and whiter residents. At the same time, there were further reductions in public spending on social services.

The result was that many business owners prospered and the richest residents ended up getting even richer. From 2002 to 2012, the top 1 percent of residents went from taking in 27 percent of all income to 45 percent. Meanwhile, 21 percent of the city’s households earned less than the federal poverty level, and a third of renters were paying more than half of their income for housing.

In 2013, mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, a former City Council member, won election, along with a slate of very progressive new city public officials. Sharing a philosophy that New York was dangerously out of balance in the distribution of incomes and wealth, they set about reversing that course.
González describes in fascinating detail not only how de Blasio beat the odds to win, but how he began to reshuffle the city’s priorities. His collection of programs provided universal prekindergarten to 70,000 children, paid sick leave for all employees, froze rent increases for tenants in rent-regulated private buildings, and initiated services or programs that saved residents from spending an estimated $21 billion.

Such efforts were not unique to New York. González describes candidates elected in cities like Pittsburgh; Austin, Texas; Seattle; Minneapolis; Philadelphia; San Francisco; and Richmond, California, who ran on platforms that rejected the dominant neoliberalism philosophy that “the private sector did things faster, better, and cheaper than public employees.” Raising the minimum wage and requiring paid sick leave for all employees often followed their elections. Many of these leaders were members of a national network of progressive municipal officials called Local Progress that shared information on legislation being introduced and passed in their respective cities.

However, “Reclaiming Gotham” is not blind to the opposition that such policies generate or to the shortcomings of the advocates themselves. Within New York, de Blasio faced a massive slowdown of police enforcement when department members accused him of creating an anti-police climate. More seriously, financial and real estate interests “spent nearly $20 million on media ads targeting the mayor between 2014 and 2016,” hoping to confine him to one term.

Meanwhile, state and federal prosecutors investigated his administration for illegal influence peddling. They ultimately found “no evidence of personal profit” by the mayor or his staff, and no criminal charges were filed. While his image took a hit, de Blasio won the Democratic primary easily and is expected to have another term. Other progressive politicians faced their own resistance from well-financed campaign opponents or saw their bases splintered on some issues.

González notes that because 80 percent of the country’s 75 largest cities have Democratic mayors, many promoting liberal programs, they can provide a bulwark for resisting President Donald Trump’s reactionary policies. By pushing the twin goals of equity in city services and effective municipal governance, politicians can alter the “Tale of Two Cities” from one where cities are divided rich and poor, white and nonwhite, to one of greater community.

What Happened to The Underground Press ?

By | Urban Politics - U.S. | No Comments
Urban Politics – US   9/26/17
By Nick Licata – author of Becoming a Citizen Activist


The answer to that question is not simple but I do explore it in my book review of Celebrating The Rag, which extracts many articles from an era when Austin’s underground paper The Rag was published (1967 to 1977). The book provides a window into a time of counter-cultural revolution, where close to 300 underground, community run, newspapers shared a mission to disrupt the status quo. In doing so, they introduced new ways of looking at the world, and for the most part in a non-dogmatic way.
This book review ran on the Znet website ( https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/the-underground-press/) which describes itself as “A Community of People Committed to Social Change.”

From the mid-sixties through the mid-seventies, there was an explosion of independent, locally controlled print newspapers, collectively known as the underground press, aka alternative newspapers. The boomer generation remembers them, but the millennials and those coming afterwards may not be aware of how they shaped this country’s politics and culture.

One of the earliest and most successful of those papers was Austin’s The Rag; publishing nearly 400 issues running 11 years from 1967 to 1977. Three former Rag Editors and writers, Thorne Dreyer, Alice Embree and Richard Croxdale, have published Celebrating The Rag. Its collection of articles helps us understand how this nation shook off a bigoted culture that oppressed African Americans and other ethnic minorities, women and gays. At any one time there were over a hundred underground papers challenging the existing cultural values and political structures.

Dreyer, founding editor of The Rag, continues that tradition by editing The Rag Blog, an Internet newsmagazine, and hosting Rag Radio on KOOP 91.7-FM, a cooperatively-run Austin community radio station. His interviews dive into progressive politics, culture, and history; you can find podcasts of all Rag Radio shows here.

The Rag was the sixth alternative paper to be part of the new Underground Press Syndicate (UGS), following the LA’s Free Press, New York’s East Village Other, the Berkeley Barb, Detroit’s Fifth Estate, and East Lansing’s The Paper. By 1971, according to a roster in Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book, there were 271 UPS-affiliated papers. The member papers operated independently from each other under various management structures and pursued a range of political perspectives. Nevertheless they shared a common ethos that demanded accountability from government and all establishment institutions in order to advance social justice policies.

Celebrating The Rag’s articles vividly tell the stories of how their staff, writers and readers continually supported the organizing efforts to oppose any institution that hampered the freedom of individuals to seek a productive life. The Rag’s own organizational structure reflected these values.

Bill Meacham, former Rag writer wrote that “… the Ragstaff operated as a participatory democracy. We had no designated leaders… “Although he allowed for how natural leaders did emerge, still “Anybody who showed up at the meetings (of the Rag) could speak up and have input to the content and direction of the newspaper.” Bottom line: “The lifestyle was about community and treating people well and living in such a way that everyone was included and nobody was ripped off.”

Early on this philosophy shaped the structure and content of the paper in acknowledging the feminist movement.  By the end of 1968 the paper was reporting on women’s national protests and conferences. And in the Seventies graphics and photographs of nude women tailed off as women took on leadership of The Rag.

A 1971 article by Sue Hester protested being called a “chick”, which was a term long used at the paper, drew “more than the usual amount of discussion at our copy meeting…” according to former Ragstaffer Sharon Shelton-Colangelo. She notes that while other alternative papers “were being torn apart by gender divisions” Rag female staffers set up a reproductive rights referral service in the Rag offices. Women staffers also successfully lobbied the Austin City Council to provide rape and trauma counseling at the Brackenridge Hospital and recognize International Women’s Day.

While political activism of staff and writers, was openly and proudly pursued at The Rag, as well as other underground papers, the role of electoral politics balanced between being reluctantly accepted as a useful tool and being scorned as a waste of time. Promoting demonstrations and lobbying for changing oppressive laws was part of the every paper’s vernacular from their birth. Supporting candidates however was another matter.

For instance when the paper’s editors expressed their support for Frances Farenthold’s campaign for the governorship of Texas in 1972, it was met by two questions: “Aren’t electoral politics bullshit?” And, “What good can come from liberal reforms?” The lead op-ed against such support concluded that “Under circumstances as they exist now in this country, taking the business of elections seriously is fostering falsehood and undermining radical consciousness.”

The editors responded at length to these criticisms, but in a nutshell they argued that Farenthold’s program goes beyond the electoral process and as such liberal reforms are “a damn sight better than fascist repression.”  Nevertheless, they believed that while revolution was inevitable the people should continue to struggle for the maximum benefits and gains, which are possible under capitalism.

What is refreshing in reading over these debates from over 40 years ago, is how these local discussions were shared nation-wide due to the network of alternative papers. Not coalescing around one solution, they provided a platform for debating what our democracy was about and if it could be saved.

In looking over the many articles in Celebrating The Rag what stands out is a culture of challenging the dominant status quo as the path forward in creating a better nation for everyone. The Rag, along with local Austin chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, in a seemingly innocuous manner broke through the dominant group think that, like a thick fog, hung over not only college campuses but all citizens.

And a battering ram was not use but rather a gentle nudge tipped over the cart of apples. It was called Gentle Thursday, held in the fall of 1966 as The Rag was getting started. It was organized “as a celebration of our belief that there is nothing wrong with fun.” Who could object? It encouraged students on the University of Texas, Austin campus, to look at their personal world differently, from a vantage point of saying “What could I do that is not within the usual expectations, but something that I and others will enjoy?” The poster that went up suggested “you might even take flowers to your Math Professor, feel free to fly a kite on the main mall and at the very least wear brightly colored clothing.”

By simply breaking the everyday routine, it pushed back the curtain of conformity and released a sense of self and being alive. Knowing that you have the power to change your behavior to enjoy life is at the heart of every political movement.

This cultural shift became known as the counter-culture, it opened the eyes of those who benefited from the status quo to see how others were suffering under it. Long before President Donald Trump popularized Fake News through his constant stream of Twitter lies, there was News Black Outs, where the struggles of regular people were not important enough to receive the attention of the major media outlets. The Rag’s efforts to highlight these struggles were repeated through a national network of local underground papers. Not only did they highlight feminist issues, but those involving gays, Blacks and unions were also championed.

The Rag lamented how the Sexual Freedom League was kicked off University of Texas campus in 1966, because they wished to stimulate discussion of the various taboos and archaic laws involving sexual activity. Five years later in 1971 The Rag was promoting and celebrating Austin’s Gay Pride week, following up in 1974 by supporting the first statewide gay conference.

The Rag promoted Black Liberation and covered events that the main stream media ignored, like the 41 year sentence of a prominent black activist, Martin Sostre in Buffalo NY, for selling heroin to a person, who later recanted that he had lied to frame Sostre.

The Rag shed light on labor struggles that the dominant newspapers like the Austin American didn’t find important. It informed the public of a critical NLRB ruling vindicating a strike by a predominantly Chicano union against the Longhorn Machine Works in Kyle, Texas. The company was ordered to bargain in good faith and restore lost benefits to the strikers.

While these are examples of issue specific struggles to achieve social justice, the counter-culture’s message of creating community ushered in the creation of consumer and worker cooperatives as an alternative to the hierarchical corporate model. In both instances, the customers or the workers had a say in how the organization was operated. Meacham, looking back on his experience at the paper, wrote, “Both co-ops and the Ragstaff operated as participatory democracies.” However, even co-ops came under scrutiny for their practices. The Rag covered a struggle in 1975 where the Minneapolis/St. Paul cooperative network of more than a dozen storefront food co-ops, bakeries, and other alternative collectives, came under attack from an organization  (The Co-op Organization –TCO) representing some 4 dozen co-op members and workers. They accused the co-op network of being a white, middle-class hippie trip and instead should be building solidarity with black and working class communities in preparation for revolution. The Rag noted that the issues raised by the TCO were important ones but that the tactics employed by the TCO, such as physically breaking up meetings, was destructive to the co-op movement.

Internal strife over ideological or gender divisions contributed to tense working conditions in many alternative organizations across the country and probably contributed to the demise of some of the alternative papers. Although The Rag did not fold until 1977, by 1975 most of the underground papers had disbanded. There were many reasons. Since many were very dependent on volunteers and low pay full time positions, the supply of willing labor may have just dried up.

Unfortunately, what is missing from Celebrating The Rag is a summary statement on why the paper stopped publishing. It might have helped shed some light on why this phenomenally successful paper, and others like it, did not survive. The rise of the underground press has been attributed to the introduction of cheap photo offset printing, which made publishing a paper accessible and affordable for many small groups. But new technology alone is not enough to make a movement; it takes spirit and a belief that things can be made better by organizing.

I don’t think the counter-culture lost its soul. Instead, it expanded far beyond its founding groups, so that the establishment adopted many of its objectives, such as achieving stronger civil rights protections and ending the Viet Nam War. But before that tipping point occurred, local authorities did resist and try to suppress them.

The Rag successfully legally challenged a ban from selling their paper on the UT Austin campus. The court system, however, ultimately was not friendly to freedom-of-speech rights. In 1973, the Supreme Court decision in Miller v. California re-enabled local obscenity prosecutions, which allowed local police and prosecutors to attack the local head shops that often stocked underground papers. While right-wing extremists did not permanently close down the underground press offices through violence, the local authorities were able to harass and shut down their retail distribution network.

The legacy of the underground press was to question all authority and seek answers based on independently verifiable knowledge and not on what was being provided by those in power. The Rag exemplified a first-rate execution of that objective.

The challenge now is to determine how to keep that orientation alive and thriving. Perhaps community radios, which are found in many cities, like Austin’s KOOP, can provide a framework for sustaining such a progressive force. Other media outlets like blogs or podcasts have also begun to play such a role. It may be that the disastrous Trump Presidency will stimulate a creation of a UPS-like network among these outlets, playing a role similar to how the horrific Vietnam War prompted the creation of the underground press. What is certain is that citizen activists can change the world, they did it in the past and they can do it again.

Nick Licata is the author of Becoming a Citizen Activist; Stories, Strategies & Advice for Changing Our World, a former 5 term Seattle City Councilmember, and co-founder of an alternative paper The Seattle Sun (1974 to 1982). He can be reached at nick@becomingacitizenactivist.org  twitter @nickjlicata

If Politicians Actually Want to Make Change, They Have to Think Like Organizers

By | Featured, Urban Politics - U.S. | No Comments

Six Strategies

To empower your constituents and help get you the votes you need to pass progressive legislation

“What has fueled Seattle’s progressive victories, isn’t some mystery potion or innate Northwestern goodness, but the same hard work that has forced progress in other cities: grassroots organizing, tenacity, and political allies,”

This simple little pamphlet outlines the steps that council members can take to distribute the power they have as elected officials to their constituents to create a partnership with them for improving their lives.

To download this article as a PDF, click here.

First Step – Have them recognize that complaining is not a solution

How many times have you had constituents come into your office making legitimate complaints. You listen and nod in agreement. Then having felt that they have been heard they prepare to leave. DON’T LET THEM LEAVE YOUR OFFICE WITHOUT MAKING AN ASK.

The first step is to work with them to define a specific remedy. One that is not so distant in the future to be put off by endless studies. Ideally, it is something that can be accomplished within a week or two. It’s the first step in gaining momentum for making changes; by showing them that by working with you, they can taste success.

Second Step – Explain both the technical and social dynamics of city hall politics

Share with your constituent knowledge on how your city government works. Many citizens don’t understand the committee structure or the legislative process. As an elected citizen, you have learned these details. Tell them which relevant committees would address their issue. Describe the council members on that committee and recommend who they should approach with your help to sponsor or co-sponsor the legislation. In addition, if they have staff, or if the council has staff, let them know who they are and how they can be approached.

Describe how the committee chair votes. Let them know who the chair is close to on the council and in the community. These people will likely influence the chair; they need to be approached and convinced to help on the issue.

Work with your constituents to have their issue brought before the relevant committee. If your council has open committee meetings, which they should, then see that there is time to take testimony before the committee either in a public period of comment or as a guest to sit at the table with the council members to explain an issue from a community view. Prepare them before hand on how to present information and to bring no more than a 2-page handout.

Third Step – build momentum by finding allies

Encourage your constituents to reach out to bring in new allies as a way of increasing the chance of success. Start with those people they know, neighbors, workers, those from the same religious community and finally any citizens that may be serving on citizen advisory groups to the city. Even a simple petition, on paper or on line, shows that the issue has more than a handful of supporters.

If the issue is geographically based, work to approach the leadership of the local community council or religious organization. Even if just one of their board members is willing to sign up in support of the issue, it could open a conversation with other council members. Also, approach former elected officials to sign on, which may help garner media coverage.

If it is a non-geographically based issue, invite in a representative from a national interest group or union that is engaged in this issue. If they need money to cover their costs, use that as a focal point for holding events to build community and raise funds. Moreover, when they arrive offer to have them speak before a council committee and invite the media to cover it.

Approach neutral parties, like the League of Women Voters, or any other local civic group, to write a letter of support. The point is to show the opposition that the issue goes beyond the immediate advocating group.

Fourth Step – use facts and data, and question the reliability of opposition’s information

Using hard data gets the attention of the media and gives them something to include in their coverage. It also shores up support among those who are or favorably inclined but have doubts. Demonstrate that the advocates know their subject matter.

As an elected official, you should have access to information that community groups do not. Use that power of access to release statistics or data collected by various city departments. If they refuse to release that information, then the issue becomes “Why are they hiding this information?” It puts the opposition on the defense and forces them to account for their behavior.

If the opposition sites a survey to derail your effort, demand to see the entire survey instrument, all questions, responses and demographics collected. Again, if they refuse, then you raise the issue of a lack of openness and accountability – an excellent position to be in. Once you receive their information, look for inconsistencies and expose them. All surveys have multiple ways of being interpreted, pursue them.

Conduct your own opinion survey on the issue. You do not have to spend $10,000 for one. A reliable survey with a few questions can cost under a $1,000. Consider using university students and faculty to assist with one. Keep in mind, you just need one strong fact to stand out to derail the other side by forcing the media to include it in their coverage.

Fifth Step – Get the word out

Politicians have the ability to get media coverage. Use it! Don’t fear taking a strong stand, because most people will forget what you even said, but they will remember that you said something that was important because the media covered it.

If there are protests, talk to the media about why there are protests. Use the incident by pointing out how future protests could be avoided by taking certain actions.

Use all media tools. If you send out an e-newsletter, include information about the issues that your constituency is organizing around. You don’t have to say what you’ve done, say what you want done and how you are going to get there. Ask your constituents to re- tweet your points so that they reach as many people as possible.

Hold a forum in city hall on the issue at hand during lunch hour in the council chamber that is open to the public. Invite both sides on an issue, because it is more likely to get those on the council who are undecided to attend and it will garner more media coverage. If you cannot use city hall, find a community hall, church, library or even a tavern to hold a forum.

If you have surplus campaign funds because you are a sure winner, use your campaign material to educate the public on an issue.

Sixth Step – Encourage optimism by celebrating every win no matter how small and believing in democracy

Don’t dwell on the goals not achieved because you will never achieve all of them. Instead, with every struggle that you join your constituency on, make sure that you know what a minimum win looks like from the beginning. When that is achieved, celebrate it. Then remind folks that it is just one stage and that the next day or week the fun begins again in fighting for and winning the next battle.

Integrate cultural activities into every organizing effort, because people like to have fun and if it isn’t fun, it’s harder to grow your movement. Everyone loves a parade.

Encourage your constituents to listen to the opposition to understand where they are coming from. Knowing your opposition improves your insight into their strengths and weaknesses. And that makes you smarter, more confident and a more articulate proponent of democracy because you are practicing it.

Keep in mind that the greatest obstacle to achieving progress is cynicism – distrust in democracy and a democratic government. Those who want to shrink government speak of freedom and liberty but a weakened democracy cannot protect those freedoms.

To download this article as a PDF, click here.

Seven Steps to Becoming a Citizen Activist

By | Featured, Urban Politics - U.S. | No Comments

Despite who is elected as President or elected to Congress or City Hall, each citizen has the ability and the tools to influence whether good or bad things happen. But you must be willing to do something about it.

To gain political power you don’t have to be a super hero or dedicate your life to activism. However, you should know what you want and how to get it.

This brochure briefly outlines the steps toward making effective change based on the more detailed lessons described in Becoming a Citizen Activist – Stories, Strategies and Advice for Changing Our World.

To download this article as a PDF, click here.

Complaining is therapeutic – not an action plan

When meeting with a public official you must explain the problem you want addressed and what you want that person to do. It should not be so general a request that the politician can nod and say he or she supports your goal and will work toward it. That is fine but not enough!

Make your ask for something specific and measurable. For instance, ask the politician to hold a press conference, issue a statement, hold a public hearing, be the main sponsor on a piece of legislation or work with you to write that legislation. All of these options must be tied to a specific time line. And one that is not so distant that it can be postponed indefinitely.

Present the problem and your request on no more than 2 pages, which should include your contact information.
When you leave it with them ask for a specific date when they can get back to you.

This is the first step in gaining momentum for making greater changes. Demonstrate that by working with you, they can taste their own success. If you can only meet with the public official’s staff, meet with that person and follow the same routine. However, also ask for confirmation that the politician has personally received your request.

Know how government works

No matter whether it is a city, state or federal government there are basic structural and procedural features that they all share. Know what they are and how they work.

They all have issue committees and chairs of those committees. Determine in advance what committee will deal with your issue. You can do that by either looking at the committee title or looking at what issues it has dealt with. Almost all levels of government have this information on their websites.

Know who the committee chair is and members of the committee. Do research on them. What groups have endorsed them? You can find this out from looking at their past or current campaign websites. Find out if their campaign contribution donors are listed on any government websites. Find out if you know any of the groups or donors.

Know the schedule for introducing and passing legislation. For instance, how long does it take for a piece of legislation to be introduced before coming before the full deliberative body? Who has the authority to introduce it? How many sponsors are needed to move it forward?

Find a committee member who will work with your group on some level. Best if they can hold a hearing on your issue. But if not that, see if they will allow testimony before a committee meeting or at a committee meeting. Or at a minimum bring the issue up at the committee meeting to get it aired publicly.

Build momentum by finding allies

You cannot win working alone. Strength comes from numbers. Reach out to individuals and groups to increase the chance of success. Start with people you know: neighbors, workers, those from a religious community and finally any citizens
that may be serving on citizen advisory groups to the city, state or congress. Providing

even a simple petition, on paper or on the Internet, shows that the issue has more than a handful of supporters.

If the issue is geographically based, approach the leadership of the local community council or religious organization. Even if just one of that organization’s board members is willing to sign in support of the issue, it will make an impression on a politician. Also, approach former elected officials to sign on, which may help garner media coverage.

If it is a non-geographically based issue, invite a representative from a national interest group or union to speak out. If they must travel to your city, see if you can cover their travel costs. Use that need as an opportunity to hold fundraising events and attract a broader base of support. If you have a noted speaker, request that they speak before a committee, a public forum or a hearing and invite the media to cover it.

Ask your supporters, including allied politicians, to contact potential sympathetic groups for a letter of support. The point is to show politicians and the public that the issue goes beyond the immediate advocating group from just one district or interest community.

Use facts and question the reliability of the opposition’s

Using hard data gives the media something to include in their coverage. It also shores up support among those who may have doubts about the merit of an issue. Using facts demonstrates that the advocates know their subject matter.

Encourage supportive elected officials to share government reports from departments and drafts of legislation under consideration. If an agency refuses to release information, then the issue becomes “Why are they hiding this information?” It puts the opposition on the defense and forces them to account for their behavior.

If the opposition cites a survey to derail your effort, demand to see the entire survey instrument, all questions, responses and demographics collected. Again, if they refuse, attack their creditability because of their lack of openness and accountability. Once you receive their information, look for inconsistencies and expose them. All surveys have multiple ways of being interpreted, pursue them.

Conduct your own opinion survey on the issue. You do not have to spend $10,000

for one. A reliable survey with a couple of questions can cost under a $1,000. Consider using university students and faculty to assist with one. You just need one

strong fact to stand out to derail the other side by forcing the media to include it in their coverage.

Get the word out

Even after you make a specific request and have strong allies, you still need to keep the public informed of your efforts and the relevance of the issue. Make a list of journalists and bloggers who might cover your issue. Personally contact them to tell them what you have accomplished, no matter how minor it may seem.

You want to show that the issue has the attention of a number of people and groups. And that it has momentum. Reporters want to see movement, something that is developing, and something that is changing the public discussion or could significantly change the political landscape.

If you hold a protest action, follow it up with having your participants post on Facebook and tweet with photos and comments. Make sure that your supporters share your group’s posts and retweet them. This requires having an email list serve to your supporters to remind them to spread the information among their friends and media contacts.

Hold an open forum on the issue at your place of worship after a service, at a public library community room or even at a city hall council chamber during lunch hour. Try to get a public official or sympathetic organization to host the event. Invite all public officials to attend, even if they do not speak their attendance will be recognized.

Celebrate every win no matter how small

Don’t dwell on the goals not achieved because you will never achieve all of them. Instead, with every struggle make sure that you know what a minimum win looks like from the beginning. When that is achieved, celebrate it. Then remind supporters that it is just one victory and that the next day or week the fun begins again in fighting for and winning the next battle. A meaningful and joyful journey is the end objective, because there will always be something to work on.

Integrate cultural activities into every organizing effort, because people like to have fun and if it isn’t fun, it’s harder to grow your movement. Have a parade, a party, a dance or a movie; any opportunity to enjoy oneself with others keeps people engaged.

Make these activities open to everyone, because a growing supportive community achieves success far more than a stagnant or shrinking one.

Believe in Democracy

If you don’t believe you have the power to change your life, it will not change. If you withdraw from participating in the democratic process, those that remain engaged are those that benefit most from the status quo and have the most to lose from any change. So, things are likely to remain the same.

As a result cynicism replaces hope, leading to distrust in democracy and a democratic government. If that happens, those who want to shrink a government that is accountable to the public, and replace it with a corporate or elitist model that is not open and accountable to all citizens will determine your future. That may be good for a business or closed special interest groups but not for the general public whose needs and rights can only be guaranteed when citizens participate in guiding their democratic institutions.

Always keep in mind that being a citizen is knowing that you have the opportunity to make a difference and then acting according to your needs.


To download this article as a PDF, click here.

Defunding the Dakota Access Pipeline City By City

By | Urban Politics - U.S. | No Comments

President Trump faces a new challenge from city governments. These are the cities where many progressives live and feel powerless to challenge the Trump administration’s new anti-environmental policies. Their solution is to inventively use the tools that are available to them.

They are taking a lead in defunding the Dakota Access Pipeline by using tactics that Trump’s federal powers cannot quash as his administration is attempting to do with sanctuary cities protecting undocumented immigrants.

An effort is unfolding to go after the banks that are funding fossil fuel climate change. Each city has public funds that need to be deposited in a major bank to allow a daily shifting of revenues and expenses. They also have a need to deposit their pension funds in a bank. This is a local decision and not one the federal government could halt.

Some cities are focusing on divesting from Wells Fargo. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission the bank has supplied $347 million in credit to the companies building the pipeline and administers an additional $3.7-billion line of credit to help the project.

On February 7th, Seattle terminated its $3 billion relationship with Wells Fargo in large part because it has been funding the Dakota Access Pipeline. A few days afterward, Davis in California cut ties with Wells Fargo, as had Santa Monica just before it.

Very likely most big banks serve corporations that despoil the earth. However, cities should consider taking a useful tactic that unions applied for decades in successfully negotiating better wages and working conditions for autoworkers: they focused on just one company at a time not all of them at once. After they succeeded in bringing one of the big four auto companies to an agreement the other companies usually followed, knowing what they faced. The same tactic could be applied to divesting from banks by choosing to go after Wells Fargo first through identifying those cities that use its services. Another key targeted bank would be lined up after concessions have been wrung from Wells Fargo.

Attention is also being focused on public money held in pension funds for city employees. These funds seek stability. Divesting from fossil fuel investments not serves to help address climate change but it also is a more responsible approach to safeguarding pensions.

Seattle’s Pension Retirement Board began looking at what the possible consequences of divesting from fossil fuels would be after the city council adopted a resolution to support such an approach. A letter to the mayor, city council and the retirement board signed by local politicians, church and community groups was presented on the 15th of February, it asked the city to proceed with the following actions:

  1. Stop any new investments in the top 200 fossil fuel companies,
  2. Drop coal, oil and gas from its investment portfolio by divesting from the top 200 fossil fuel companies by 2020,
  3. Commit to reinvesting at least 5 percent of its portfolio into climate solutions defined as, but not limited to, renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean technology, community adaptation funds, transit, and clean energy access.

This approach makes financial sense. A report commissioned by 350.Seattle showed the City of Seattle losing over $65 million by remaining in fossil fuels in the last ten years. Meanwhile, the Gates Foundation has lost billions by remaining invested in fossil fuels in recent years. A combination of the Gates Foundation’s losses on fossil fuel investments and the public outcry for fossil fuel divestment resulted in them divesting 85% of their fossil fuel holdings from a starting point of $1.4 billion in 2014.

Community organizations, like DivestYourCity have begun to identify cities to join in withdrawing their business from banks funding the North Dakota Pipeline. Those in favor environmental protections, who live in cities and feel unsure how they can impact national policies that are beyond the control of their local governments, need to look at their own tool shed and see how previous uses of these tools, like the use of public funds, can be handled in a manner that can have a national impact.

This strategy augments resisting Trump Administration’s policies by pursuing actions that are beyond the reach of the federal government. Then, let President Trump spend his twitter time trying to resist it.

Don’t Let Trump Trash Our Culture

By | Urban Politics - U.S. | No Comments

Our diversity in arts and culture must flourish for the next 4 years to keep our Democracy from drifting into a conformist nationalist template overlaid upon us by the federal government. America’s vibrant democracy is the direct result of encouraging all of our communities to express and celebrate their culture; cultural diversity has built a great nation.

That basic democratic principle may be compromised by the Trump administration if the report from The Hill is true: http://thehill.com/policy/finance/314991-trump-team-prepares-dramatic-cuts.

They reported that Trump’s administration is floating a plan to privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEA/NEH).

CPB created the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the National Public Radio (NPR) network consisting of more than 1,400 public radio and television stations.

A report outlining Trump’s main budget priorities is due within 45 days. It describes Trump’s blueprint to reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years.

This plan closely resembles the ideology espoused by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition. It has published their own report for guiding the Federal budget in 2017 stating “government should not use its coercive power of taxation to compel taxpayers to support cultural organizations and activities.”

The Heritage Foundation also is a major funder of the American Legislative Exchange Council, (ALEC) dedicated to limited government, free markets and federalism, but apparently not in favor of public support for promoting our culture. That would be left to the free market, i.e. private money will pick and choose what type of art and culture will prosper and grow.

This is the time for citizens to become activists in opposing any Federal government attempt to halt public support for sustaining and promoting arts and culture. We do not have to wait until the dye is cast. We must cast one first.

Here are six strategies complimenting each other and building toward a national campaign to NOT privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and NOT eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEA/NEH).

– The first action is to reach out to others in your neighborhood, your PTA, your school, your church, etc. and let them know of this possible threat and why you are concerned.

– Second, write a simple one-paragraph statement that you ask those above to email to all Congressional representatives, of course be open to amending it to get more people to participate.

– Third, create an email list of every artistic group (and their board members and staff if accessible), including individual musicians, poets, artists, art teachers, and performers. Reach out to them and ask them to help with the second task above. Do not limit your efforts just to your town or city, if you know people in other cities or states, let them know of your efforts and ask them to duplicate these strategies in their communities.

– Fourth, organize a cultural celebration or a panel discussion in your library or town hall to highlight the importance of publicly funding these 2 national institutions. Invite politicians, including your congressional representative, to attend. Work with community newsletters, community papers and radio stations to advertise the event.

– Fifth, conduct a survey of your city or county through the Internet or other means to measure public support for promoting local cultural and artistic activities. See if an elected official would sponsor the survey if not with funds then at least with an endorsement.

– Finally see if a councilmember would have a poem read at the start of their committee meeting to call attention to the importance of culture even within city hall. If there are no rules prohibiting it, why not try? In Seattle, I was able to have poetry read at the beginning of my committee meetings for the 18 years I served on the city council.

All of these activities must convey the singular message to Congress: our diversity of culture and art are important to not only sustaining vibrant communities within the US, but also to stop us from just looking just inward and ignoring the world around us to our disadvantage. Both NPR and NEA/NEH play critical roles in keeping our democracy an open one to all cultures and views; without that openness our nation becomes dependent on too narrow a set of beliefs and thus becomes brittle and weak in the face of new ones.

Visiting the Twin Cities – The Struggle for Justice in the Workplace

By | Urban Politics - U.S. | No Comments

Talking to citizen activists & politicians in the Twin-Cities as they struggle to adopt Minimum Wage & Paid Sick Leave

I’m speaking on Tuesday, Sept 13th in Minneapolis and St Paul on how Becoming a Citizen Activist can guide strategic actions and mobilize support for progressive change. Please pass on these announcements to folks you know in the Twin Cities.


Minneapolis Talk & Discussion

  • When: Tuesday, September 13th, 4pm
  • Where: The University of Minnesota Bookstore
    Coffman Memorial Union on the University of Minnesota campus
  • What: I’ll talk about Becoming a Citizen Activist and urge students to become citizen activists if they want to gain control over their future.
  • Who: I’ll be joined by 3 Minneapolis council members, Elizabeth Glidden, a Local Progress board member; Cam Gordon, Green Party member and advocate for $15 minimum wage; and, Alondra Cano, Associate Director for the Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network.

St. Paul Talk & Discussion

  • When: Tuesday, 9/13, 7PM
  • Where: East Side Freedom Library, 1105 Greenbrier Street
  • What: I’ll talk about Becoming a Citizen Activist regarding Citizen Activism and the Struggle for Justice in the Workplace
  • Who: I’ll be joined by a panel of union leaders and local activists from the $15 NOW and Earned Sick and Safe Time campaigns.

Summary of the Minimum Wage & Paid Sick Leave Efforts in the Twin Cities


Minimum Wage Legislation


Advocates for raising the minimum wage to $15 (lead by the groups 15 Now, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change) gathered enough valid signatures on a petition to send the issue to voters through a charter amendment. The need for increasing the minimum wage in Minneapolis is apparent in light of the fact 28% of its residents live in poverty. Those numbers are even higher for families of color, including 49% of Black households, 65% of American Indians, and 34% of Latinos. And polling showed 68 percent of 400 voters surveyed said they’d vote in favor of a $15 minimum wage.

However, the city attorney determined that the petition did not fall into the narrow spectrum of city issues that can be decided by voters in Minneapolis according to the city charter. Thereafter the majority of the council and the mayor, up refused to place it on the ballot this November.

The advocates appealed their decision to the court and won a favorable decision to allow the charter amendment to go before the voters. In response the city then appealed the lower court’s decision to the State Supreme Court and won. Consequently the voters will not be voting this fall on raising the minimum wage to $15.

The Current Situation:

Minneapolis Council Member Lisa Bender (lisa.bender@minneapolismn.gov) co-authored a resolution requesting that their city council staff make a recommendation on the minimum wage issue by the second quarter of 2017. The Supreme Court did say that the Council could adopt a minimum wage through an ordinance. The advocates have said that their attention is now to focus on getting the council votes to pass such an ordinance, preferably this year.

Paid Sick Leave Legislation

The Current Situation:

Beginning July 1, 2017, employees will accrue sick and safe time. In the meantime their Council approved the creation of a Workplace Advisory Committee consisting of both business owners, employees and unions which among other responsibilities will be to “Prepare a two-year work plan that focuses on workplace issues, such as the implementation of the City of Minneapolis’ sick and safe time policy, and update such plan on an annual basis.”


Minimum Wage Legislation


St. Paul is more of a working class city with a smaller population and economic base than Minneapolis. Although raising the minimum wage would certainly benefit many people, perhaps even a higher percentage than in Minneapolis, no legislation or initiatives have been introduced.

The Current Situation:

Advocates for raising the minimum wage in St. Paul have first focused on passing paid sick leave. They have also monitored Minneapolis’s council work and now passage of their $15 minimum wage law on September 7, 2016.

Paid Sick Leave Legislation


On February 3, 2016 the Saint Paul City Council unanimously passed a resolution convening a task force to discuss the possibility of extending earned sick and safe time to all employees in Saint Paul. On July 19, 2016 the Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity Commission, without amendments, approved the Earned Sick and Safe Time Task Force Recommendations as well as a draft of the ordinance. Finally, on September 8, 2016 the council unanimously passed the Paid Sick Leave Legislation. You can locate the legislation at https://stpaul.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2801386&GUID=D3340F14-A618-4A88-8D04-E820E6C352C7

The Department of Civil Rights will investigate complaints but will work proactively and collaboratively with employers. There is also a provision allowing workers to sue their employer if they felt they had been retaliated against for using sick leave or reporting a sick leave violation.

The Current Situation:

St. Paul is now the second city in Minnesota to require employers to give workers paid sick time, and some have said that it is a more inclusive and worker-friendly approach than Minneapolis’s version, which was approved in May 2016. A month later in June Chicago adopted a sick leave regulation. Duluth is currently looking into an ordinance.

45 Years Ago Today Attica Prisoners Rebelled

By | Urban Politics - U.S. | No Comments

Remembering Attica’s Lessons

Forty-five years ago today, the inmates of New York’s Attica prison initiated the largest revolt of prisoners this nation had ever seen. In a fury of rage at their inhuman conditions they rebelled, beating the Correction Officer William Quinn in to death in taking control of the prison. However, shortly thereafter in a remarkable turnaround they developed a rational decision-making organization which did not seek their release but instead demanded decent conditions for their incarceration.

James Forman Jr. (Yale Law School professor) in the September 4, 2016 edition of the NYT Book Review summarizes Univ of Michigan History Professor Heather Ann Thompson’s book Blood In The Water – The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy. The Attica “riots” are now only a vague memory to even those in the progressive movement. It is critical that we not forget what public policies eventually lead to the death of 39 prisoners and correction officers, apparently killed by New York’s untrained and unsupervised state troopers and national guardsmen in retaking the prison.

As described by Thompson, the prison’s 2,000 plus inmates with almost half from New York City were limited to one shower a week, one roll of toilet paper a month, and food rations costing the state only 63 cents per day. Prison mail was censored to the point that most letters in Spanish to the Puerto Rican prisoners were tossed since the censors could not read them. Black prisoners were singled out for daily harassment by the almost all-white staff. As L.D. Barkley, one of the prisoner leaders said during their occupation of the prison, “We are men. We are not beasts, and we do not intend to be beaten or driven as such.”

In the months preceding the uprising, the prisoners with the help of outside advocates lobbied for better living conditions with no avail. Then on September 9th, 1971 a group of prisoners overpowered a correction officer and all hell broke loose. After a few hours of bloody chaos, the prisoners organized a 4 day sustain effort to negotiate a series of demands from the state. Liberal Republican Gov. Nelson Rockefeller refused to personally participate in the negotiations and called them off on the 13th ordering the prison to be retaken by force. Thompson describes sadistic crimes that took place after the state officials had full control of the prison. To date, the New York state has refused to release thousands of boxes of crucial records.

Are we repeating these conditions today?

It is important to remember what caused Attica, because many prisons today once again rely more on punishment than on rehabilitation practices. This is ever more true in public prisons operated by private companies. Journalist Shane Bauer’s Mother Jones article “My Four Months as a Private Prison Guard” (August 2016 edition) ignited national outrage at the conditions in privately operated prisons.

The federal government recently announced that they would no longer follow this practice. However over 86 percent of prisoners are in state prisons and each state will have to make that decision. While efforts should be made to get the Department of Justice to conduct a massive review of state prisons operated by private companies that effort may well be slowed down by governors and state legislatures who would see it as interfering with state rights.

Rather than organize fifty different campaigns to influence each state government, it would be more effective and capture more media attention to focus on one non-federal entity: the National Governors Association. True there are more Republican Governors than Democrats. But Terry” McAuliffe, the Democratic Governor of Virginia, is the chair of the NGA. And he has a record of being supportive of restoring voting rights to ex-felons. In April of 2016, McAuliffe signed an executive order restoring voting rights to more than 200,000 ex-felons in Virginia., unfortunately it was overturned by the Virginia Supreme Court. Just as importantly another Democrat, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, chairs NGA’s Health and Human Services Committee.

A strategy can be applied to the NGA that works in any legislative-type body in an open democratically run organization: you do not need a majority to bring an item forward for discussion. What you need is a few dedicated members willing to demand that an issue be brought before the body for discussion and investigation. The goal is to begin a process that allows those concerned to raise the issue publically and force the other members to address it publically. The goal is to highlight the issue and require the organization’s members to take a public stand after momentum has built up within and outside the organization. The mechanics of the decision-making process will vary with each entity, but every democratic organization has an opening for the minority to express its opinion and even effect the final outcome.

In this manner, only a handful of state-based organizations are needed to pressure their respective governor to bring forward this issue in the NGA, and particularly to lobby McAuliffe and Shumlin to hold a public workshop on this issue and to follow up by requesting that NGA contract with a neutral third party, preferably based at a university, to conduct a national review resulting in an evaluation of the prisoner conditions of privately run state prisons and the public cost the state incurs because of those conditions. That report then becomes a powerful key to opening the door for prison reform. It is not the end however; organizations will need to mobilize public opinion to convince state legislatures to use that key. If they do not, then make it a pivotal issue during their re-election campaign.

The conditions that led to the Attica upraising should never be tolerated again within any of our prisons. Focusing on eliminating privately run public prisons provides the best opportunity to get a victory and address the larger issue of improving prison conditions for all inmates. There is a way to win on this issue, but it will take thoughtful organizing.

(Photo: Associated Press)

Speaking at People’s Convention in Pittsburgh

By | Urban Politics - U.S. | No Comments

by Rebecca Addison at Pittsburgh City Paper – July 6, 2016

In Seattle’s 2013 election, Nick Licata broke the city’s record for the most votes received citywide for a city councilor in a contested race. That same year he was named the country’s Most Valuable Local Official on The Nation’s list of most valuable progressives.

During his time on council, Licata sponsored and passed legislation like paid sick leave and supported a plan to raise Seattle’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, two social-justice objectives sought by activists around the country. At the end of last year, the veteran Seattle city councilor retired after 18 years in office.

That’s not the end of Licata’s social-justice crusade, however. This week he’ll visit Pittsburgh to attend two conventions on social-justice issues and share insights from his recently released book, Becoming a Citizen Activist.


During Donald Trump’s Pittsburgh visit in April, social-justice activists were protesting in full force.

“My primary mission right now,” says Licata, “is to work with both citizens and elected [officials] to recognize that no matter what happens after November, it’s critical that we maintain an activist space at the local level, because we’ve shown at the local level we can accomplish things, and we can continue to accomplish things no matter who is president.”

Pittsburgh and other cities haven’t seen as much progress on paid sick leave and the Fight for $15 as has Licata’s native Seattle. Pittsburgh City Council passed a paid-sick-leave bill last year, but a judge struck it down in December as unenforceable. And while the city and some employers have raised their minimum wage to $15 an hour, a mandatory minimum wage citywide is a ways away.

But Pittsburgh must be doing something right because it was selected to host those two social-justice conventions. The People’s Convention will bring more than 40 national activist organizations to the city, while the Local Progress Convening will see the arrival of hundreds of progressive municipal elected officials.

“Pittsburgh was identified as a place where [the] movement is very real,” says Erin Kramer, executive director of social-justice group One Pittsburgh. “There’s more workers organizing per capita in Pittsburgh than any other city in the country right now. There’s something happening in Pittsburgh right now, and folks want to come see it and learn from it.”

The pairing of the events isn’t an accident. They’re both sponsored by the Center for Popular Democracy, a group that works to build alliances between progressive organizations and politicians. Participants say collaboration between the two bodies is integral to ensuring progressive laws are passed and enacted.

“It is very important for elected officials who are trying to advance social change to have a direct understanding of the specific concerns of communities,” says Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of Popular Democracy. “And it’s very important for community members to have relationships with elected officials. We know in the places where working families are winning we need both the pressure on the outside and the strategy on the inside.”

Jimmy John’s employee Chris Ellis has worked in the fast-food industry for more than two decades and has become a leader in the local Fight for $15. At the People’s Convention next week, he’ll have the opportunity to meet leaders from movements in other cities throughout the country.

“[I hope to learn] better organizing skills not just for the Fight for $15 movement but for all movements in general,” Ellis says. “I’m the type of person who sees myself trying to organize other fights, because once this fight is over, I’m looking for other fights.”

The interconnectedness of social-justice issues is widely recognized by activists. The People’s Convention will focus on topics like workers’ rights, health care, gun violence and education — issues that One Pittsburgh, which is part of the hosting committee, has been working on for more than a decade. The idea is to collaborate on these issues to build momentum and produce results.

“In Pittsburgh there’s lots of progressive work on half-a-dozen different issues at any given time, and increasingly those organizations are building partnerships with each other,” says Kramer, from One Pittsburgh. “We’ve been getting together to learn from each other and build our campaigns together. What I think folks are increasingly realizing is whether it’s housing, minimum wage or education justice, it’s really the same people who need to come together to build power to build a city that works for all of us.”

The event will develop strategies for appealing to lawmakers, but will also address barriers in cities where the majority of elected officials are already supportive of social-justice movements.

“Increasingly, we find ourselves literally preempted from solving problems at the local level by state legislatures that are unfriendly to the solutions we would propose,” says Kramer. “A good example is where we passed paid-sick-day legislation for tens of thousands of people in Pittsburgh and immediately it goes in front of the court because the restaurant association [the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association] objects. The reason we don’t have a $15-an-hour minimum wage for the vast majority of Pennsylvanians is because you can’t do that at the city level.”

Combating these barriers that stifle progress at the municipal level — and particularly, developing strategies for fighting lawsuits against progressive laws — is something that will be discussed at the Local Progress convention this weekend as well.

“It’s the strategy,” says Licata, a Local Progress co-founder. “It’s smart on [the opposition’s] part, and I think that’s what we’ll see in other cities — corporate strategy to try to limit [these laws]. What I would like to see as we see more of these lawsuits being filed is Local Progress use our network to work on national strategies to fight these corporate challenges through the court system.”

To ensure laws fall within a city’s jurisdiction, Local Progress has also been holding workshops to examine the power that states hold over local municipalities. And they’re also looking into legislation that is being passed to further limit cities’ rights.

“As a rule of thumb, cities are creatures of the state,” says Licata. “Over half the states limit the authority of cities, and one of the ongoing battles we’re having that impacts local politics is the whole issue of states limiting citizens’ rights. We’ve been fighting on that. It’s a major concern.”

Ultimately, as a former activist turned politician turned activism author, Licata says the intersection of the two events and collaboration is important to ensuring that things like paid sick leave and a $15-an-hour minimum wage are realized.

“People at the People’s Convention and the politicians at Local Progress are literally the same people. A lot of the people at Local Progress were activists,” he says. “When someone gets elected to office, people who got the person elected to office think he or she will take care of the problems, and the person who gets elected thinks, ‘Oh, I have to act differently.’ But you have to continue organizing and use the power you get as an elected official to amplify your organizing.

“Government is a tool. It’s not an end-product. I think getting into office does give you more power, but you want to distribute that power so other people have access to power. The main ask of progressive politicians who want to build communities is to disperse the power that was given to them to as many people as possible.”

According to Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who as city councilor joined Local Progress nearly a decade ago, the group can counterbalance those organizations that are trying to get conservative legislation passed.

“Certainly we’ve learned from other cities through these organizations,” says Peduto. “We hear a lot about ALEC [American Legislative Exchange Council] and how it is a network that is putting state legislatures into very conservative, Tea Party-type of policies, and it networks nationally. Well, this is the answer, and these organizations have become the network that helps progressive policies to work their way into implementation in city halls. And the fact that they chose Pittsburgh to do it shows that we are a part of that network and one of the areas that the rest of the country looks towards.”

Like Peduto, event organizer Popular Democracy hopes its network of activists and politicians will have the ability to shape the future of the country.

“It’s a really important moment politically because our nation is at a crossroads between the politics of hate and xenophobia and the politics of opportunity and interdependence,” says Popular Democracy’s Archila. “We are in the process of a presidential election where the issues that matter to the working-class community are really centrally positioned in the debate. How the solutions are advanced will depend on who is in motion. And we will have in Pittsburgh thousands of people who are in motion across the country and who are helping define the debate for what’s possible in their cities.”

Run your City for $15,000 a Year, No Desk or Staff Needed

By | Urban Politics - U.S. | No Comments

Last week I spent a few days in Indianapolis talking to their city council members and constituents. I was there as the keynote speaker for Butler University’s traditional Peace Week and talk about citizen activism.

Indianapolis is the archetype example of what those who want to shrink government looks like. They have a combined city/county government that spreads out over 300 square miles with a population of 850,000. They elect their mayor and 25 councilmembers from districts. Read More