They Go Low – We Go Local!

Published originally in CityWatch LA

BUTCHER ON LA – Within two weeks of moving into our new apartment in La Crescenta, I learned of two substantive, meaningful opportunities to participate locally: a community meeting explaining the new districts for elections of local school board members and notice of a meeting of the Crescenta Valley Town Council where the main topic discussion was construction on the 210 freeway.

Got a doggie park recommendation for what turns out to be the best dog groomer in the San Fernando Valley (at the corner of Wheatland and Sunland), pulled into the parking lot and found myself parking in front of the Foothill Trails District Neighborhood Council storefront.

Then we received this notice announcing the City of Los Angeles’ gifting of delicious, free mulch and soil amendment.

And just as I was feeling most darkened by the shortness of the days after the Election, I read this from esteemed labor activist attorney, our friend Emma Leheny, who now with the National Education Association, America’s largest labor union, sharing a comprehensive organizing resource for local action:

Anti-immigrant statements by Trump and his supporters have caused anxiety among school children throughout the country. Bullying and harassment in schools have been fueled by Trump’s slurs. Educators have been supporting our schools and students – with guidance, inclusive curricula, and anti-bullying resources.  But given Trump’s stated plan to rescind all Obama executive actions, school sites may soon see ICE agents attempting to enter campus. ICE issued a memorandum in 2011 stating schools were off-limits for immigration enforcement, except in exigent circumstances. We can expect that memo to be repudiated, or at a minimum, ignored in the next administration. So our students and educators are looking for answers: what can keep our schools safe for all of our students? 

NEA has developed this template resolution and policy for use by any school board. It recognizes the constitutional rights of undocumented students to access a free, public K-12 education, as set forth by the Supreme Court in Plyler v. Doe. It puts in place steps for district administration to follow if approached by ICE. It re-iterates the support and respect a school community holds for all of its students and families. Several large school districts have already taken steps in this direction – Los Angeles, for example, enacted and re-affirmed a resolution opposing immigration enforcement at school. 

The Tenth Amendment also creates a bulwark against feared efforts by the new administration to overreach by attempting to coerce local and state compliance with an anti-immigrant agenda. This proposed NEA language educates local administrators about what protection they can offer students, even in the face of ICE intimidation. 

They go low, we go local.

From Noah Zatz’s spot-on piece, The Principle and Politics of Sanctuary:

What to do? It is easy to feel paralyzed and powerless in the face of President-elect Trump’s announced intention to rain terror on immigrants and people of color with mass deportations, Muslim registration, racial profiling, and so much more. Start somewhere. For me, that has meant staring where I live, by attending my first local school board meeting. I’ve joined with other parents to make my small city’s schools into sanctuaries from federal immigration enforcement and other intrusions. It’s also meant starting where I work, joining with faculty, staff, and students to push similar policies at the university level. 

Sanctuary offers a simple moral idea that draws on rich and righteous histories. It connects us to the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves, the protection offered to Anne Frank and Schindler’s List, and the 1980s religious movement to welcome Central American refugees from Cold War conflicts. 

They go low, we go local. Whenever the social justice arms of our religious communities show up – be it the Catholic Worker or the human rights committee of a reform synagogue — in South Gate or Selma, the light of God and the goodness of people ultimately bend the arc of justice towards peace — but we’ve gotta work it.

There’s an amazing group of organizers gathering on Facebook at “Our Future. The Organizers’ Roundtable.” Sign up now to join the greatest organizers in the country. Find your local page!

Find a local organization working to protect the environment. For instance, I’ve been inspired by the successful local organizing in my new neck of the woods by Glendale’s VOICE (Volunteers Organized in Conserving the Environment).

As 48 US mayors say in their November 22 letter to the President-elect:

On November 8, American voters approved more than $200 billion in local measures, funded by their own local tax dollars, to improve quality of life and reduce carbon pollution. Seventy percent of voters in Los Angeles County, the car capital of the world, approved a $120 billion, multi-decade commitment to public transit. Seattle voters approved transit investments totaling $54 billion; Austin voters approved a record-setting $720 million mobility bond; Boston voters approved investment in affordable housing, parks, historic preservation and more. 

As President, you will have the power to expand and accelerate these local initiatives which the people resoundingly supported. We call upon you and the federal government you will lead to help cities leverage funds for the hundreds of billions of dollars in transit, energy, infrastructure and real estate development necessary to upgrade our infrastructure for the 21st century. We ask that you lead us in expanding the renewable energy sources we need to achieve energy security, address climate change and spark a new manufacturing, energy and construction boom in America. 

We ask that you help provide American businesses the certainty to invest through continued tax credits for electric vehicles, solar power, renewables and other clean technologies. And we ask that you shift to embrace the Paris Climate Agreement and make U.S. cities your partner in doing so. 

While we are prepared to forge ahead even in the absence of federal support, we know that if we stand united on this issue, we can make change that will resonate for generations. We have no choice and no room to doubt our resolve. The time for bold leadership and action is now. 

Sign up for the simple local app Nextdoor and connect with happenings in your community.

Find your local Patch for local news!

Order your local newspaper for home delivery — or BUY an electronic subscription if you don’t need the feel of newsprint on your fingers.

It’s all local and it’s all personal – I’ll sign up for a Muslim registry. I’ll tell the woman at the DIY store that she’s being rude when she says too loudly that she doesn’t understand a word the cashier is saying because she speaks with a different accent. I’ve got an entire clip of safety pins to wear!

I ordered home delivery of the LA Times now that we’re back in town!

A worthwhile read from the Nieman Reports, All Journalism is Local:

A possible future for journalism is more in the mold of grassroots organizing, where the newsroom becomes a sort of 21st century VFW hall, the hub of local activity. The current buzz is around audience acquisition through social media. What about audience acquisition through local physical presence, opening up potential trickles of revenue from events and other local activities? 

The danger of social media “audience acquisition” is that it repeats the mistakes of cable television, rendering us captive to celebrity, national news stories, and clickbait. Newsrooms as “civic reactors,” the beating heart of our communities, offers greater promise — not to mention the skills of grassroots organizing are cousins to traditional news-gathering skills, rather than the alien skills of marketing and public relations. 

“Res publica” means, literally, the “real” people. It is up to us to make sure it is not the kind of “real” in reality television, but the kind of “real” you find at PTA meetings and traffic hearings.IMG_1871-001

I’m inspired to help organize a bit locally. I accepted a little freelance reporting job with the Crescenta Valley Weekly News, a vibrant, privately-owned local weekly newspaper. Enjoy my first byline: Holiday Happiness Found on Oak Circle Drive.

They go low … we go local!


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