Grace Lee Boggs 6-27-1915 – 10-5-2015
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Living for Change News
October 2nd, 2017
Thinking for Ourselves
Democracy and States?
This week, as much of the nation’s attention has been riveted to the devastation of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, the Michigan Legislature is quietly continuing its efforts to destroy local democracy.
This time the Republican controlled house passed two new gun bills, aimed not at guns, but local city councils. The first bill shifted the legislation around carrying concealed pistols. Instead of classifying carrying a gun after a permit has expired a felony, the bill makes the action a civil offense, subject to a fine. It seems republicans want to “make sure a normally law-abiding citizen doesn’t lose their right to carry a concealed firearm because of an expired permit.” This action raises interesting questions about other felonies that we should consider reclassifying and for whose benefit.
But it is the second piece of legislation that is most troubling. It is intended to stop local governments from enacting any ordinances to control the use of guns. Representative Gary Howell’s proposed legislation would impose a $500 to $2,500 fine on any local government official who knowingly adopts “a gun ordinance out of line with state gun laws and does not repeal the ordinance within 90 days after a formal complaint is brought against the official over the matter.” One way to think about this effort is right wing republicans want to prosecute local officials for attempting to protect children from guns while protecting state officials or emergency managers from law suits for poisoning cities and destroying schools.
This effort is referred to as a “super pre-emption.”
What is pre-empted of course is the ability of local councils to respond to local constituents and local needs. The effort to destroy local decision making is part of a broader effort by right wing republicans to reduce the capacity of people in cities and towns to control our own lives.
Earlier this summer, a similar effort was launched against sanctuary cities to prohibit local communities from limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Local officials, including law enforcement officials testified against such bills. Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton said that the bill would discourage immigrants from cooperating with police when they investigate crime.
“Most of the police service leaders recognize that fighting crime occurs with strong and trusting relationships with community members, who work as witnesses and help develop solutions to neighborhood problems,” he said. “The trust and strong relationships that I speak of is often a very fragile thing.”
These latest efforts are part of a broad pattern of actions by right wing state legislatures to undermine democracy at the local level. From gun control to protections of basic human rights, and emergency managers, state level legislators are pre-empting or overturning the judgments of local cities about the values and policies we want to define our shared lives.
These efforts diminish all of us. They are raising fundamental questions about whether or not representative level state government is compatible with developing a vibrant democracy. Each time the state legislature moves to restrict, control or overturn local decision making it attacks the basic capacities that enables us to define our civic life. Creating sovereign cities and towns is an essential part of developing a human future. State level legislation is increasingly at odds with what we need to develop our region and our people.
What We’re Reading
Visionary organizing, not protest, brings change
Grace Lee Boggs, a life-long activist who died in 2015 at the age of 100, believed and lived as a visionary woman. As stated in an article from The Daily Good, “She lived and breathed her truth and believed that tending gardens, caring for the self, and caring for others were ways to nourish activism. In a sometimes harsh world, these simple acts of kindness end up restoring the energy needed to carry on the hard work of social change.”
Those were, and are, life-saving actions for me to contemplate. My computer is inundated with emails requesting support for innumerable issues. Daily, I receive multiple surveys to complete and return — with personal comments, if possible. I’m asked my opinion, whether or not I am knowledgeable about the stated concerns. Obediently and loyally, as a person dedicated to the pursuit of truth, justice, mercy, and peace, I have complied. I am now depleted, drained by the effort to protest what I believe to be lacking in authenticity and discouraged with the apparent failure to be effective.
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