This week, Mayor Ed Murray announced the formation of a committee, headed by local rich guy Nick Hanauer, to develop a ballot measure for local funding to combat homelessness. I met Nick once. He was shorter than I expected.
More importantly, though, I've engaged in long conversations with people who work for his policy shop (Civic Ventures). Nick has done some phenomenal work for folks in Washington - through his own work, and that of Civic Ventures. He is a regular "go-to" when lefty issue campaigns need cash. He is also a critical thinker, and not of the tech-bro type. His commitment to reducing gun violence, increasing the minimum wage, and building more affordable housing and transit shows his commitment to our communities. Suffice it to say, I was excited when I heard he was going to head up this committee.
Knowing about Nick's work, imagine my surprise when another friend of mine immediately tore into the choice because Nick is a "rich guy." And then, when presented with some defense of the "why," said friend continued to insist that because he's a "rich guy," and not a direct service provider, he doesn't have business in the creation of the committee. Notwithstanding my belief that allowing only providers to oversee themselves (outside perspective and questions help build stronger policy), the refusal to acknowledge the good work that Nick has really came down to one thing: the idea that rich people are "the enemy."
We are seeing a similar trend within the Democratic Party. As someone who became more involved thanks to Howard Dean, I know a thing or two about being part of the "new blood." And I am excited to see so many folks joining the local Party organizations, looking for ways to make us stronger. While a part of me is annoyed that it took Donald Trump for a lot of folks to feel the need to get involved, I'm glad to see the new faces.
Again, though, imagine my surprise when one of the board members of my local Legislative District organization took to the floor to assert that "now we (the org) will be responsive to your needs with our new leadership." At the same time, many of the new leaders admitted that they were dropping the ball because they didn't know what they were doing, or how the infrastructure worked.
I held my tongue in order to think on things. Reflecting on my time on the Executive Board - Young Democrats Representative, Vice Chair for Events, KCDCC Representative, and Vice Chair for Communications - I could not think of a time that our organization was not responsive to our members. We continued to grow as an organization, and created events that became "musts" in the city, including Ballots & Bubbly and Pride Brunch.
Our programming was reflective of the requests of our members. During a holiday party one year, someone asked what I thought, as a Board Member, of a separate "Environmental Caucus" for folks who really wanted to organize around environmental issues in advance of general membership meetings. My response: Hell Yes! And while we are two distinct groups, we have been supportive of their work ever since. Our communications strategy reflected the priorities of the organization, and we always kept an open-door policy as a Board.
With that in mind, I cannot think of why this person would indicate that prior Board Members were not responsive to membership. This person is also new to the organization - like many other folks - and my guess is that they don't know because they were not around. These kinds of statements make me less than enthused to participate in the organization beyond my bare minimum duties as a PCO, and will surely affect my contribution level to the 43rd this year.
In the push to purge long-time Party activists in favor of folks who believe they are more liberal, we are pushing people who have dedicated countless time to the organization, and also the folks who know how the infrastructure works. The institutional memory of what we've tried and haven't tried. What has worked, what hasn't worked. The assumption that the individuals' frustration with the National or State Party somehow is automatically equivalent with the local level shows the lack of engagement and involvement prior to now.
Those of us who have been around are not enemies. If anything, we are natural allies. But people shouldn't be surprised when we decide to expend our time elsewhere following vilification of new leadership that is also new membership. After all, is now really the time to create enemies of folks who are trying to work for positive change?