“I know a place where your voice really matters and where your opinions and actions can make a definite impact: your own neighborhood.”


It was a bizarre dream.

I was having breakfast at Daisy’s with 15 Republicans, a lone European-style Social Democrat (read: independent) amid the Floyd County GOP.

They were talking about local issues, only briefly touching on wider Indiana state matters and with not mention of national or international affairs.

In this dream, I was aware of a certain uneasy caution, because in all likelihood their political ideologies and chosen candidates for state and national office were sure to differ radically from my own.

What struck me was the knowledge that for so long as the discussion remained centered on local problems and solutions, differences seemed less pronounced than similarities.

When I awoke, my first task was to find a toothpick, as there seemed to be a shard of bacon lodged in my teeth.

I’m neither stupid nor naive, but rather increasingly determined to remain non-aligned, capable of speaking with whomever I please for so long as the conversation makes sense to me.

Keeping it local tends to aid and abet this objective, and since so many local Democrats are unwilling or unable to converse with me about local topics, I’ve no compunction about having intelligent chats with those non-Democrats who will. It is of little concern to me who they are or which clique they belong to.

Rachel Quednau wrote these words months before the current tax “reform” measures — which I oppose, for what’s it’s worth. I feel the way I always have: peel back the layers, strip away the dross. Life’s all about the haves versus the have nots.

There’s probably a Bible verse to this effect, though as you know, I’m an atheist.

I know full well that a spruced up public space in my neighborhood isn’t going to solve America’s immigration problems or infrastructure crisis. It’s not even going to solve the problems of poverty and crime in my city. But it’s not worthless. And it’s activism on a scale that everyone is capable of and equipped with the tools to do.

We ought not to let the immenseness of the problems facing our nation paralyze us into inaction. Yes, there is work we can do to change national politics, but there is also so much work to be done close to home, and we have a much better chance at getting it right. Whether that’s work on immigration issues that impact your community or on a small public space that might make your neighborhood a more pleasant place, keep your eyes open for what needs to be done and don’t wait for someone else to do it for you.

There you have it.

I’ll do what I can, as I can, when I can. I possess my own indie social democratic principles, and I’ll apply them to the local realm, because in spite of everything, my immediate vicinity remains the place where my efforts will be devoted. I’ll push for little pockets of sanity, and hope they grow. Trump won’t ever hear my voice; Gahan has already.

If a Republican can be of assistance, great. If it’s a Democrat, fine. Beyond this, it’s impossible to predict the future. I don’t know why I feel compelled to share these thoughts. Perhaps it’s necessary to re-declare independence from time to time.

Now, back to pub planning.


 … I know a place where your voice really matters and where your opinions and actions can make a definite impact: your own neighborhood.

At the beginning of 2017, I wrote about how renters can be neighborhood advocates, in spite of some of the unique challenges that come with trying to have a voice in your community when you’re not a homeowner. I offered some advice and shared some from friend and member of Strong Towns, Michael McGinn. I’ve been doing my best to live by that advice for the past few months.

This Tuesday, for example, I went to a community forum discussing local businesses, public safety and public space. It was incredibly refreshing to sit in a room full of people who care after a day spent glancing at social media posts from people who feel the need to shout loudly that they care, and spend far less time actually showing their care. At this meeting, we listened to a representative from our neighborhood association talk about business closures and openings (four long-standing businesses sadly departed from our commercial street this year, but two new ones have already filled their spaces!). We heard a brief report from our alderman about traffic safety at problematic intersections and streets, and thanked him for taking our questions. I even got the chance to check up on the status of a traffic study about the one-way streets that I’d like to see turned to two-ways and saw a majority of the people in the room express their agreement about the necessity of this change.

We concluded the meeting with an extended discussion about a small strip of green space next to sixty odd yards of bike/walk path that connects two streets in our neighborhood, led by an architect who’s been working to redesign the space to be more inviting. I couldn’t help but mentally step back and reflect on the fact that, here was a group of 25 or 35 people listening attentively and seriously discussing a 50’ x 200’ strip of land for the better part of thirty minutes. Maybe that sounds like a waste of time to you. But it doesn’t to me …