WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE
by Lauren Paulson
Folded, Spindled and Mutilated!
On the first day of Occupy Portland’s genesis last year, a group of strangers joined together for this chant: “This is what democracy looks like!!” Indeed. I have other information.
One model of democracy was my mother’s in the rip-roaring 1950‘s. She wrote sophisticated, well thought-out letters ‘to the editor’. When they appeared in the editorial page of the local (Republican) newspaper, as they sometimes did, she dutifully cut them out and collected them in a scrapbook. I have those yellowed remnants of what democracy looked like for her. Nobody took note of her erudite observations or suggestions. She changed nothing. So much for free speech and petitions for redress of grievances.
Freedom of The Press?
For the last ten years, with my handy laptop and the internet at my fingertips, I have expanded the reach of my letters ‘to the editor’, but without any more success. Then the blogosphere called in 2007. And more. I have written sophisticated, well thought-out, thoroughly researched study pieces to our elected leaders, bureaucrats, judges and legislatures at every level. I have written letters to the editors locally and across the nation; Op Ed articles to The New York Times even. I have written complaints and proposals to our courts locally, across the nation, and even to the U.S. Supreme Court. Nothing. Hon. Ruth Ginsburg, I am begging you!!
Our Leaders and Elected Officials?
Determined, I set off on several trips to Salem to talk to my state legislators, Representative Jeff Barker and Senator Mark Hass, face-to-face. I supplied these folks with sophisticated, well thought-out written proposals for What Democracy (should) Look Like. For example:
Pug Blows the Whistle
- I blew the whistle to the Governor of Oregon and the local elected officials that TriMet violated the law when they built the Wilsonville to Beaverton (WES) train line. That multimillion dollar boondoggle was built without public input, in clear violation of the law. EVERY transportation project of this size IS REQUIRED TO HAVE A CITIZENS COMMITTEE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PROJECT. Nothing!
- I served on a road widening committee where Crook County Commissioner Tom Brian and the County ‘heavy equipment operators’ perpetrated a total con job on the citizens of the County. The ‘neutral’ private-vendor ‘facilitator’ who was supposed to provide ‘neutral’ citizen participation-information to public-citizen committee members was married to one of the other vendors on the project. That was not disclosed to the road-widening citizens committee. Moreover, the County Right-of-Way agent’s brother served on the committee. Only nobody told us that either. I blew the whistle at every level, testified, cried.
- I served with distinction on my local professional trade association even becoming its head person. We ‘shaked rattled and rolled’ for the citizens of the County. The system seemed to work.
Free Speech Denied!
Thus enamored of the possibilities for change I graduated to the state level. I created a newsletter for my statewide professional organization only to learn a sobering fact. My state-wide trade association did not want free speech nor a free press. The trade association wanted to control ALL their state-wide messages. The trade association is the Oregon State Bar. They have an oligarchy to protect.
Free Speech Punished!
- Learning of the possibility of a $10 million dollar fraud about to be perpetrated by the Executive Director of that trade association, I became a whistleblower. Only to learn the hazards and pitfalls of becoming a whistleblower in the teeth of a powerful oligarchy. That is another story.
- I have proposed a statewide formal system of judicial evaluations to the Oregon State Bar and the Oregon Supreme Court. Such a system is highly recommended by the American Bar Association for each state. Nothing.
- I have proposed a solution to the foreclosure problem in Oregon to the entire Oregon legislature, the local U.S. Attorney, the Oregon Department of Justice and to HUD. I even wrote to the Oregonian’s Steve Duin. Nothing. Several times. Nothing.
- I have also gotten involved at the local level. I participated in and became the Chair of my local Citizens Involvement Committee. The fix is in here too. This outfit is run by a subcontractor to the dance of the local county commissioners. If anything, it is an agent TO HEAD OFF UNITED PROTESTS by citizens!!! (Ever notice everything is a con job??)
Pug Goes Traveling!
With each legislative proposal, I traveled to Salem and personally delivered each formal written document to Jeff Barker and Mark Hass. Never have I gotten anything back from them that my proposals were deft or dumb. Nothing!
Undaunted, I have written to each of my national representatives. All I have gotten back is form letters. Only Senator Jeff Merkley gave me a response that was almost personalized and almost addressed the issue I raised. In fairness, Senator Merkley is the only person in the State of Oregon that is in the trenches fighting for regular citizens.
Since this is the age of the computer, I went online to them all. Here is the trick all of them have learned. They have set up a firewall between you and them. They don’t take Emails. Instead, they require you to put the information on their website in a format of their design. This precludes a sophisticated, well thought-out mass Email by citizens to manifold leaders and legislators. It doesn’t matter, because none of them ever get back to you anyway.
Occupy Portland (est.October 6, 2011)
All this made me regroup to ask again ‘What Does Democracy Look Like’?
In desperation, I found Valhalla. The Occupy movement. Immediately, I got involved with one small segment of the Occupy movement. Omygosh, Occupy too has a 1% of the 99% oligarchy. And a censor.
What to do. I saw Lawrence Lessig interviewed online. The Rootstrikers. Then I saw Alice Walker’s Democratic Womanism. Well, here I go again Desperately Seeking Democracy. Through its replacement: Revolution and Change. The current system is not working. At all.
Pug Has Two Proposals For a Start
- Every legislator should be required to respond to every piece of constituent mail, that specifically requests a response with a statement of what action they took, if at all, on the constituent contact. Then furnish their constituents with an annual report on how many they got, and what percentage of constituent contacts were acted on with specific legislative proposals.
- Every newspaper should be required to respond to every letter to the editor they did not publish as to why not. Then each newspaper should be required to publish an annual report on how many letters to the editor they got and what percentage were published by subject. It could just be part of their annual report to their shareholders.
It is time citizens get regular formal feedback. Legislators have staff. I have seen them. Newspapers have staff. I have seen them.
Not! that ‘Hopey Changy’ thing, rather Revolutionary (nonviolent) Change. Paradigm change. To this Democracy Thing. It is ugly right now, if you are asking what democracy looks like? -- It is Time for a Makeover.
claurenpaulson2012 firstname.lastname@example.org bulletinsfromaloha.org