Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Monday, November 17, 2003  

There's an absurd scene in Scarface when a heavily coked Pacino is riddled by four hundred bullets. The fire dies down, and Pacino looks out at his surprised attackers and screams, "I'm still standin here! I'm still standin here!" Roughly speaking, this is how I've felt as a liberal in America for the past few years. Maybe you have, too.

Well my little Tony Montanas, I've got good news. This weekend I went to the Engage Oregon Conference , which was organized by a two-year-old grassroots group called the Oregon Bus Project. For about half that time, I've sat behind this computer, wondering aloud why people don't take obvious action: campaign finance reform, reaching out to rural America, embracing positive, progressive solutions to tax reform, the environment, health care, and equal rights. The good news is that they have. I went to the conference with a head of steam, ready to push for some initiatives I think should be happening. In every case someone had already started.

All politics are local, and so was the focus at this conference. We discussed 14 policy papers on a variety of topics and went to workshops that either informed us about issues or started the process of organizing us to act. Among the most interesting initiatives were campaign finance reform (in Oregon), a plan to split an 810-square-mile in half, dedicating one portion to sustainable logging while preserving the other half, and a large effort to reform Oregon's broken tax structure.

One big theme that ran through the center of the conference was the issue of the media. I suspect there are efforts like these happening across the country, but they get no coverage. (Even fairly interested bloggers don't know about them.) Multnomah County Commissioner Diane Linn spoke about how difficult it is for governments to get out the news of their work, as well. What results is an environment in which those working at the grassroots to create solutions for the problems are forever undermined by their inability to get out the word. I came away from the conference inspired by the real need for good reportage of these initiatives, and I'll be discussing them over on the Oregon Blog in coming days and weeks.

It's a role that will become increasingly important for bloggers to fill. Our reach as bloggers isn't very significant yet, but this is an area in which we can perform a vital function. The good work is getting done on the policy side, but it's not getting out. I hope this is something we can help with over the coming months.

posted by Jeff | 9:04 AM |
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