REFORM in PhiladelphiaI went to my second Philly For Change Meetup last night. It was low key, yet, at the same time, incredibly empowering. You sit there with all these people, from a variety of backgrounds, who are simply ready for a real change in Philly, and are organizing and starting the process of doing just that. For such a small meeting, there was such a large amount of stuff that could be really, really cool.
The first main topic of discussion was the "infiltration" of local politics by reform minded people. The idea is that we need reform minded people to run for all levels of office, including the smallest- Judge of Elections and Committeemen. (I wrote about this in December.) The political apparatus that runs the City, while by no means totally uniform, does not want change. Why would they? To them, change and reform is only a threat. But, Philadelphia should not be a fiefdom. Boss politics and patronage have prevailed in this City for too long. We need reform minded people in all levels of government, making the Democratic Party in Philadelphia better in the process.
To that end, groups are forming to take the idea of a progressive, reform targeting of Philly politics off of Cyberspace, outside of coffee shops, and into action. One group aiming to do this is calling itself the "Neighborhood Network," and seems promising. It was started by those who did precinct by precinct work for MoveOn.org in the election, and want to keep the local momentum going. I have a lot more info on them, and some of their plans, including a conference in June, and will write more extensively about it soon, including ways to get involved.
The other main points of interest were a few speeches by candidates running for office- Seth Williams, candidate for DA, and John Braxton, candidate for City Controller. I have written about Williams a few times, but this is the first time I have met him, and first time I have seen him speak. I will say, that above all else, he seems like the real deal, so to speak. He is smart, dynamic, humane, and has real, tangible ideas to change the way the DA works. Having him in office would be a credit to our City, and would certainly be one big step in having candidates that are accountable to us all. Check out his website, and, expect to hear more from me about him.
John Braxton, former Common Pleas Judge, running to replace outgoing Controller Jonathan Saidel, also sounded the reform note, and sounded it loudly. I do not know too much about Braxton, but I can tell you that he spoke eloquently about the need for reform and change, and maybe most telling, a Philly for Change member who knows him got up when he was finished and said he was the type of person we need in office, which was certainly a good sign. (A message has a lot more impact when delivered by people you trust. I do not even know the woman who spoke, but, given the way she was spending her Wednesday night, and the way she spoke about Braxton, her speech made me a believer. At least somewhat.) Braxton, like Williams will have to win without support of the party apparatus, which will be supporting loyal party soldier, Rep. Alan Butkovitz, who I also do not know anything about.
Nationally, almost everyone agrees there is a big need for change in the way the Democratic party operates. Good ol' boy networks and back room deals do not help us field the best, most electable candidates or most effective public servants. This is why, despite some personal feelings of ambiguity, so many people from all parts of the Country voted for Howard Dean as DNC Chair- because say what you want about him, he understands the power of reaching out to everyday Democrats, and shaking up the tired system that has seen us lose way too often, with candidates we don't even really like. Well, nowhere is the cliche of "Think Globally, Act Locally" more apt than here and now. We have movements starting to try and get Progressive and Reform Democrats into the party machine, and we have candidates running against much of the establishment who could do wonders for our City.
This is by no means an instant gratification strategy. But, real change takes real time. Let's get the project started.