A new community congress

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Bad times are great times to try new ideas - the second Community Congress convenes Aug. 14 and 15 at the University of San Francisco

EDITORIAL The first time a group of activists from across San Francisco met in a Community Congress, it was 1975 and the city was in trouble. Runaway downtown development was creating massive displacement and threatening the quality of life. Rents were rising and tenants were facing eviction. An energy crisis had left residents and businesses with soaring power bills. The manifesto of the Congress laid out the problem:

"Every poor and working class community in San Francisco has learned the hard way that its interests are at the bottom of the list as far as City Hall is concerned. At the top of the list are the banks, real estate interests, and large corporations, who view San Francisco not as a place for people to live and work and raise families, but as a corporate headquarters city and playground for corporate executives. By using their vast financial resources, they have been able to persuade local government officials that office buildings, hotels, and luxury apartments are more important than blue-collar industry, low-cost housing and decent public services and facilities."

The Community Congress hammered out a platform — a 40-page document that pretty much defined what progressive San Francisco believed in and wanted for the city. It included district elections of supervisors, rent control, public power, a requirement that developers build affordable housing, and a sunshine ordinance — in fact, much of what the left has accomplished in this town in the past 35 years was first outlined in that document.

Beyond the details, what the platform said was profound: it suggested that the people of San Francisco could reimagine their city, that local government could become a force for social and economic change on the local level, even when politics in Washington and Sacramento were lagging behind. It called for a new relationship between San Franciscans and their city government and looked not just at what was wrong, but what was possible.

That's something that too often gets lost in political debate today. With urban finances in total collapse, the progressives are on defense much of the time, trying to save the basic safety net and preserve essential programs and services. It seems as if there's little opportunity to talk about a comprehensive alternative vision for San Francisco.

But bad times are great times to try new ideas — and when the second Community Congress convenes Aug. 14 and 15 at the University of San Francisco, that's exactly what they'll be trying to do. It's not going to be easy — the left in San Francisco has always been fractious, and there's no consensus on a lot of central issues. But if the Community Congress attracts a broad enough constituency and develops a coherent platform that can guide future political organizing efforts, it will have made a huge contribution to the city.

The event also offers the potential for the creation of a permanent progressive organization that can serve as a forum for discussion, debate, and action on a wide range of issues. That's something the San Francisco left has never had. Sup. Chris Daly tried to create that sort of organization but it never really worked out. The city's full of activist groups — the Tenants Union, the Harvey Milk LGBT Club, the Sierra Club, and many others — that work on important issues and generally agree on things, but there's no umbrella group that can knit all those causes together. It may be an impossible dream, but it's worth discussing.

The organizers of the Community Congress discuss some of their agenda in the accompanying piece on this page. It should be based on a vision of what a city like San Francisco can be. Think about it:

This can be a city where economic development is about encouraging small businesses and start-ups, where public money goes to finance neighborhood enterprises instead of subsidizing massive projects.

This can be a city where planning is driven by what the people who live here want for their community, not by what big developers can make a profit doing.

This can be a city where housing is a right, not a privilege, where new residential construction is designed to be affordable for the people who work here.

This can be a city where renewable energy powers nearly all the needs of residents and businesses and where the public controls the electricity grid.

This can be a city where the wealthy pay the same level of taxes that rich people paid in this country before the Reagan era, where the individuals and corporations that have gotten filthy rich off Republican tax cuts give back a little bit to a city that is proud of its liberal Democratic values.

This can be a city where it's safe to walk and bike on the streets and where clean, reliable buses and trains have priority over cars.

This can be a city where all kids get a good education in public schools.

Despite all the economic woes, this is one of the richest cities in one of the richest countries in the history of human civilization. There are no economic or physical or scientific or structural constraints to reimagining the city. The only obstacles are political.

In the next two years, control of City Hall will change dramatically. Five seats on the Board of Supervisors are up in November, and the mayor's office is open the year after that. The progressives have made great progress in the past few years — but downtown is gearing up to try to reverse those advances. The community congress needs to address not just the battle ahead, but describe the outcome and explain why San Francisco's future is worth fighting for.

Comments

It's about time. Looking forward to this historical event. Everyone needs to attend because many people in other cities are also looking to us for a way out of the same traps and systematic injustices they face to live well in their own home communities.

This will not be a tea party that is for sure. Our city has the brightest, bravest and most clever group of diverse people respresenting some 250+ distinct cultures. We have seen it all and we know enough to be able to uplift ourselves and others around the nation and the world, IF - we are on constant guard against people who are mostly not from here, coming here with money, gifts, promises of jobs who have other agendas for their own profits and human assets which will be taken from our local economy for their offshore or out of state coffers.

We are smart enough with meager resources to compete globally against nearly any other organization to develop our own solutions and provide our own intellectual, leadership, organizational, management and labor for our own projects without being dependent on others. Let's model complete local utilization and prosperity for locals first and foremost to prove to other localities, they can DO IT by being locally self-empowered, instead of the historically failed model of letting others invade, plunder and exploit others who were unable to realize, they can be world class in their works to benefit their locals, if only they were shown how.

This is me, is Our Collective Mission. To fully engage and empower ourselves to come up with all the tools and resources to enable us to meet our own people's needs, with a minimal of outside interest. In this way, we can make sure we hear all of our people's needs and create programs around needs, instead of arriving in town with prepackaged mega-programs based on what others want to profit on, which often has nothing to do with meeting our people's need for ownership, creation and management of their own affairs, with enabling support, not exploitation for profit, power or political gains.

Onward and Upward People ! You know the global elite are pissed off because their depopulation and control plans are not working so well, but as we hear on local KALW Radio and on youtube, about The Violent Twilight of Oil which is also the Twilight of Greedy Private Banks, Eugenic Madmen & Military Merchants of Death. Our future is what WE DECIDE. You and you and you... all of us, people, not mega banks, corporations or hazardous oil concerns which threaten our lives and our ability to be prosperous enough to have as many kids or be able to afford a house based on what our community thinks about us, not what some controlled privately designed banking systems dictates to us.

Before banks got involved in the car business for example, if my father liked you, he'd give you a chance to make payments on a new car from his lot. Often that feeling of being trusted by another neighbor in a community, reinforces a person's ability and desire to commit to their payment promises. They do it because they want to motivated by a deal in good faith. After banks got in with their profit on loan motives totally changed people into numbers to be manipulated at will. They put car dealers within a mile of each other to drive up competition - which created the lying salesmen who had to lie now, because of overcrowding by greedy banks who would set up anyone into the auto business by owning all the inventory and buildings. People who cared more about money than people, entered into the auto business and others, which have helped collapse our family & community structures and has sought to beat down our State rights, powers and benefits. Planned obsolesence made us and everything we buy built to fail so a firm can profit multiple times without ever really solving your needs on a permanent basis, like we used to when we valued people more than material things and we made things to last and be stable, as our families and communities once were.

Now, we realize we must turn away from the lies of oil and petro-chemicals and get ahead to a point where we only concern ourselves with things that will last that are natural and clean. Whenever possible our most vital resources, water, air, energy, housing, medicinal cannabis and health care must all be transformed into new areas of local control using not for profit models to make sure we spread economic creativty, growth and benefits to the largest number of local people possible, instead of letting it all go into the coffers of offshore bank schemes, which fail by the hundreds, every year. Every person here deserves a safe space, good sleep,
nutritious food, clean water, clean air and good enforcement of existing laws, without creating new laws and agencies until we have completely cleaned up and tweaked everything here that already exists.

We must use science and medicine as guides for facts and policy making, but we must not allow any one theme or group to dominate our minds, as a complete solution or single source of remedies for what ails us. We have big money items we must concentrate on such as the billions spent on prescription drugs which we know, from first hand experience, too many patients are not using properly or are mixing up drugs and alcohol, etc. driving up health care for us all. We must take away the waste and mismanagement of our people to make sure only the truly mentally ill need be on expensive man made drugs after inexpensive natural methods are exhausted. Those billions saved can be redirected to all manner of life saving, health promoting and safety programs and services to further reduce costs for emergency responses.

There is LOTS OF MONEY to use for what we people really need. The trick is to identify and remove all of the parts that harm us and reroute those funds into human investments which will lead to more local control, more done with less, and more done better to help us all enjoy our lives here in Our City. Forget political will. Use Your Will & Voices & Hands to make it happen for us all.

Tip ! Every time any political interest or group tells you to Hurry Up! - it means you should slow down because you are about to be hijacked for their purposes. You the People must be at the helm of our own ship without being distracted by hype and pressure. Be cool. Keep cool. Sometimes we must move fast, but it must be by our plan and choice with sound motives, not just knee jerk reactions to being squeezed by big money or big oil or big banks. Stand Your Ground, Every One of You.

Peace.
James, local advocate
sfbaysurf@gmail.com

Posted by James, advocate on Aug. 12, 2010 @ 12:24 pm

A special thanks to Bernard Choden for the heads up about the Congress that starts this Saturday @ 9 a.m. I will attend both days and look forward to the participation by all who are interested in our San Francisco Today, and our San Francisco Tomorrow.

I am running for Mayor of San Francisco in 2011. We have a political machine to remove from office and more, and this will take us all pulling together to build a new grassroots political organization from the bottom up. This will be a good beginning. Please spread the word to all the activists in San Francisco.

Here is the website for the event: http://sfcommunitycongress.wordpress.com/

Here is my support group for my run for Mayor of San Francisco in 2011: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=374897691404

(smile)

Posted by Paul Currier on Aug. 12, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

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