From soul-searching to action
"It used to be that the Democratic Party stood for workers' rights and the common man, for poor people," [Gloria Gilman] said. "Not anymore."And on the conference, this:
Neighborhood Networks plans to offer a competing vision, focused on such issues as mass transit, the minimum wage, and the end of pay-to-play politics, leaders say. They will inject intra-party competition, and in some areas members will run for committee and ward leader positions in the party.
At the first meeting, half of the city's 66 wards had at least one representative - with the highest concentration of members in traditionally liberal areas such as the Ninth Ward in Chestnut Hill, the Eighth and 30th Wards in Center City, and the 15th Ward in Fairmount. About 25 people came from various West Philadelphia wards.A sad commentary on the way the current leaders have lost their way was provided by the following quote, intended as a critique, but probably a point of pride for those who hope that volunteers driven by actual values can transform local politics:
. . .
Attending the first meeting were labor activists, people from neighborhood associations, bloggers, fans of former presidential candidate Howard Dean's, opponents of the Iraq war, even a few Green Party members.
City Commissioner Edgar Howard, leader of the 10th Ward in Northwest Philadelphia, said that the group would be limited by the absence of patronage jobs and money to reward loyalists and punish dissenters.He's right that it's one thing to mobilize for a single campaign and quite something else to build an organization for the long haul, but nobody in NN has any delusions about that, or about the internal dissent that has plagued the left for decades. But mobilization around even a small number of consensus issues would mean a real impact, and the motivation is high to get things underway.
"You have to be able to deliver goods and services to the constituents or else why should people stick with you?" Howard said. "Ultimately, it comes down to: Do they have staying power? It's a big, big city."
Update: the article has sparked some interesting discussion over at Young Philly Politics...