"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves, and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson


We as Americans all remember being taught when we were young about our nation's founders, the patriots who stood up to the tyranny of the crown of England, the drafters of the declaration of independence, the constitution, and the bill of rights, the documents that became the framework for a system of governance that they believed would maintain a balance of power within a truly representative government, that would preserve the basic rights and liberties of the people, let their voice be heard, and provide to them a government, as Lincoln later put it, "of the people, by the people, and for the people."

What we may not be so quick to recall, however, is that there was much debate between the founding fathers as to what model our system of government should follow. Those such as Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and Patrick Henry on one side favored a pure and direct democracy with the legislative power vested in the very hands of the people, while others such as James Madison, John Adams and George Washington held that a representative democracy would better serve the people than a true democracy because they believed it would protect the individual liberties of the minority from the will of the majority. Alexander Hamilton even went so far as to support the creation of a monarchy. In the end, those favoring representative democracy won the day and that is the system they put in place in the hopes of creating a "more perfect union."

Now we must ask ourselves, what would the founding fathers think if they were resurrected today to see what has become of their vision? One can only assume that they would begin to search for modern day patriots to meet them once again at the liberty tree in order to plan a new struggle for freedom and self governance. Although we continue to praise and honor those who founded our nation and sought to create a truly just form of government for it, do we really stop to reflect on whether we as a nation have in fact succeeded in preserving what they fought so hard to create?

Today, in contrast to our revolutionary ancestors, we as citizens of the United States generally observe politics from afar and the vast majority of us may participate in the political process only to the extent that we go to the polls once a year to vote. Over the decades and centuries we have allowed the erosion of the ideals of the founding fathers and the corruption of the principles which they enshrined in those so carefully conceived documents. We have been left with essentially no real power to influence our "democratically" elected officials. We may write an occasional letter to our senator or representative that generates a form letter in response and a statistical data entry that may or may not be weighed against the influence of some powerful corporate lobby. We may be permitted to participate in a march or demonstration of thousands or even millions, something our patriots of old would have marvelled at, only to be dismissed as a 'focus group' with no bearing on policy decisions.

How then is the government held accountable to the voice of the people? Are the people meant to speak only at the polls when given a choice between a select few candidates that may be equally corrupt? No, as Jefferson and his allies rightly believed, the people should be heard much more than that.

In spite of their good intentions, the system of representative democracy that the founding fathers opted for has been systematically undermined and has ultimately failed in preserving the well being of the people of this nation. Most of us accept this reality as being beyond our control and continue to observe, comment, and complain without aspiring to achieving any real change. Our local leaders and activists in our communities, and even those local elected officials who may have the best of intentions are for the most part powerless to make real positive change happen in our neighborhoods, towns and villages when there is so much corruption from above.

We have become so accustomed to this failed system of representative democracy that it may not occur to us that there are other alternative forms of democracy. In various places around the world participatory or direct democracy has been instituted both in concert with representative democracy, and as a replacement for it. It is a form of democracy that is designed to take directly into account your views, and the views of your neighbors, and to politically empower you to make real positive change possible in your communities. Initiative, referendum & recall, community councils, and grassroots organizing are but a few ways in which direct/participatory democracy is achieving great success around the world.

This site will attempt to explore in depth the concept of participatory democracy and how this grass-roots based form of governance could help bring us back in line with the principles this country was founded upon if it were allowed to take root here. In the hope that one day we can become a nation working together as a united people practicing true democracy as true equals, we open this forum…



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Friday, June 6, 2008


The upcoming United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) in Miami will be greeted by local residents and activist from around the country demanding an urban social policy that includes participatory democracy, community control of resources, and rejecting outside corporate influences who have a growing ability to reshape a community according to their profit driven vision, destroying the fabric of the community and the economic livelihood of it's people in the process. People are rightly demanding more direct democracy in order to regain control over the fate of their communities, and to develop them according to their own visions, not those of exploitative outside interests. - Editor

Local Residents Mobilize Against Mayors Conference

Source: http://news.infoshop.org/article.php?story=20080605152452471

Thursday, June 05 2008 @ 03:24 PM CDT
Contributed by: Anonymous

From June 20-24, 2008 community activists from around the country will be joining hundreds of local Miami residents to call attention to affordable housing, public space, gentrification, privatization, neoliberal policies, ecological destruction and other issues effecting urban communities in Miami and around the country.

Local Residents Mobilize Against Mayors Conference

Contact: 700 Mayors Welcoming Committee, 954.592.6330

June 5, 2008

MIAMI, FL - Local Residents Mobilize Against Mayors Conference

Hundreds Will Rally For Community Control of Resources

From June 20-24, 2008 community activists from around the country will be joining hundreds of local Miami residents to call attention to affordable housing, public space, gentrification, privatization, neoliberal policies, ecological destruction and other issues effecting urban communities in Miami and around the country.

Grassroots activists from local groups including Everglades Earth First!, Food Not Bombs, 700 Mayors Welcoming Committee, Miami Workers Center, Power U Center for Social Change and Take Back the Land will be coordinating days of marches, rallies, bike rides, and a community festival, protesting what local 700 Mayors Welcoming Committee organizer Richard Magon describes as the "irresponsible and destructive policies of local governments; cutting deals with luxury developers and multinational corporations at the expense of the needs of local residents, communities and the Earth."

700 mayors from around the country will gather in Miami from June 20-24 at the Intercontinental Hotel for the 76th Annual Meeting of The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) to debate national policy impacting America's cities and metropolitan areas. The USCM, founded in 1932 during the Great Depression, is an organization of cities with populations exceeding 30,000. Mayor of Miami Manny Diaz, who was credited with eliminating poverty in the city, is the current vice president of the USCM. Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain are also slated for an appearance.

"The 700 Mayors Welcoming Committee" says local organizer Voltairine DeCleyre, "is calling for an urban social policy built upon participatory democracy, community control of resources and for a move towards ecological sustainability." The coalition of groups is calling for "development strategies that value historic communities over the interests of luxury condominium developers."

Decleyre further states "vacant and unused properties should fall under the control of the community. We see community control of land and resources as essential in combating the housing crisis." The group's environmental agenda focuses on shifts to clean, renewable energy and for a move from automobile centered cities to cities that are geared to meet the needs of cyclists and those who rely on public transit.

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