All politics is local, as the late great Tip O'Neill said, and last weekend we got involved in local politics.
My husband had the harder meeting to go to. A month ago a disaffected black man in our small, Ozzie-and-Harriet suburb shot the mayor and killed two police officers and three city officials at a city council meeting. The fact that he was black is not irrelevant, for since his rampage (and consequent death) the anger has poured forth from a segment of the community, a historically black neighborhood, that has felt overlooked and unrepresented by local government. At the same time, plans for an April 8 mayoral election are going forward, even though the candidate that many of us supported as representing new ideas and inclusiveness was among those killed. The inevitable mayor, our only choice, is a good man, no doubt, but not the change agent many of us seek.
It's a long story, more complex than this brief paragraph (I've written a bit about it before). At any rate, last Saturday a group of community leaders (citizens, not government) brought together residents from all races and economic strata to discuss how we can heal the rifts in this city. My husband took part in these discussions, which were only the beginning of attempts to grapple with racial tensions that extend even to the most seemingly placid suburbs.
Meanwhile, I attended a meeting across town that focused on how citizens and city officials can work to reduce their community's carbon footprint. A speaker from Kansas City, Missouri (not Portland or Seattle or one of those cool cities, like you'd expect) was there to tell us about their sweeping and successful initiatives and ways that we can push for progress in our own communities to do combat global warming, while we wait for our federal government to wake up (sometime, we hope, in early 2009).
Both these initiatives are nascent, as far as my small town is concerned. Our mayor (recovering in a rehab facility after being shot in the head) signed the U.S. Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement, but little else has been done since. With elections for new city council members in April, along with (I hope) growing citizen awareness of the necessity of being involved, I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish.