Someone who had to TTFN from this community for good reason asked me to pass along a message to everyone here. First, of course, he misses participating in the community and talking to his old friends. But he has a serious message with lessons learned from his new role:
Dear online progressive community:
You are doing some great work, but you need to focus. I am the administrator of the local government in a small town. I take my direction from a group of elected people. Here we have a borough council (if you don't live in the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, substitute "borough" for "city" or "town" council) that makes the decisions regarding the direction of the town. These are the people who make decisions that directly and immediately impact your life.
Without preaching too much, my message is simple. If you want to change the world, quit complaining about Obama and Romney and the US Senate and act locally. Run for city council, school board or tax collector. Look for a vacancy on the shade tree commission, parking authority, water and sewer authority, or whatever.
When I studied politics in DC, we learned that even a little power can go a long way. This effect is can be magnified on a local level. To put it another way, consider this: What is more important in your daily life and what can you have more influence on? Obama-Care or whether the town will spruce up the park for your kids?
True story: in our small town, we are still cleaning up from the September, 2011 floods. The flood deposited a fair amount of our park infrastructure in the Susquehanna River. I am still waiting for a check from FEMA to clean up this mess. In the meantime, I have another park that has playground equipment from the 1970s that has been judged unsafe for kids. This is a town of 2500 people. We don't have a lot of options for kids to play. I am trying to put something together to at least replace the swing set.
Did I mention that our public works crew is three guys? Yeah. There's that, too.
And then there is the summer street paving that we need to take care of. And a festival this weekend... and a couple more this summer...
Anyway, I am not typing all of this out to look for sympathy for our little town. We can manage. We always do.
My point is that I take direction from a group of people who are elected to serve for little or no pay. We actually have a vacancy on our borough (okay, town) council. We have someone to fill the vacancy, but this would not have been an issue had someone actually put their name on the ballot last year. (wink wink, nudge nudge)
I am fortunate to have council members with some fairly progressive members. That could change in two years with the next election, though as this is a very conservative town.
Serving on a local board of whatever is a lot of thankless work. But if progressives want to "change the world," they need to stop coming up with creative ways to slam Boehner and Romney on the internets and get involved locally.
Case in point: the president of our borough council was appointed to council several years ago because no one else wanted the job. He has pushed initiatives that are transforming this town. We are turning into a town for young families and tourists again. Incidentally, he is gay.
In contrast, elected officials in the recent past wanted to make this town a retirement community with no new ideas. If we don't have progressives to step up in subsequent elections, I will be forced to either implement conservative policies or go work at the local plastics plant.
One last point. If you cannot break into local politics, look into local civic groups. They are hurting for members to give them new direction. I managed to become second vice president of the local Lions Club. This is an institution that is dying, but could be reborn. Just something to think about.