EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was published in the current edition of Nina Royal’s North Valley Reporter.
By Ron Kaye
I chatted recently with a longtime union leader about my belief in grassroots democracy and how people all over Los Angeles could come together in a movement for change despite their differences in values and demographics.
He scoffed at the notion.
“Grassroots movements will work when there’s a single hot-button issue,” he said. “People get mad. They come together but once the issue is over, they go back to their lives or start fighting with each other. It’s not like a union where we’ve got their jobs to keep them involved.”
He was right, of course, when times are more or less normal. But these are no ordinary times. War, global economic chaos, high taxes, government overspending, reduced public services, unmet needs.
There are growing signs the people’s patience has finally worn out with the failure of our politicians, from Washington to Sacramento to our local communities. The list of small victories by community activists, from the Home Depot fight in Sunland-Tujunga, to the solid front of Neighborhood Council members for adequate funding, has grown long in the last year or two.
The same energy that fueled those efforts also drove voters to the polls to reject Measure B, the solar energy boondoggle, on the March primary ballot.
And to show their contempt for the handiwork of the politicians in the May 19 election, they defeated state ballot propositions 1-A through 1-E.
The LA political machine even lost its bid to install the lackluster Jack Weiss in the City Attorney’s office and a true outsider, Tina Park, knocked off the incumbent in the LA Community College board race.
In the grand scheme of things, those are small victories. The big challenges remain.
The state is facing a $21 billion deficit this year. LA faces billions of dollars in expenses it can’t pay for in the next few years.
In both cases, our elected officials have shown no ability to get their arms around the problems. They only know how to tax and spend. It seems like they lose touch with the people almost from the day they are sworn in and start selling out their integrity to special interests.
The only answer I have is people power.
Structural reforms, tougher ethics laws, and clean money might be useful but it ought to be clear by now that the politicians can corrupt just about every effort at reform.
Democracy is a full-time job.
Seventeen percent of registered voters going to the polls on Election Day only shows the politicians that 83 percent of the people don’t give a hoot about what happens.
In the last year, we’ve seen the impact that a few hundred community activists can have when they keep the pressure on City Hall day after day.
For real change to occur, it will take a citizens’army of thousands coming together from all over the city.
I don’t know if people make history, or if the circumstances create the people who make a difference.
But I’m certain that the time is ripe for real change in our city, state and nation. It depends on each and every one of us waking up and getting involved.
There are so many ways to make a difference, from political action groups like Neighborhood Councils and homeowner groups, to service clubs like Kiwanis, to charities of one sort or another.
So turn off the TV and get off the sidelines and join the movement to restore democracy to America.