This is a crosspost from Generocity.org. View the original post here. This piece is part of a series by Philly cooperator (and PACA member) Caitlin Quigley.
The next mayor is extremely eager to answer your questions right now. Candidates’ forums are happening throughout the spring leading up to the May 19 municipal primary. I’m particularly interested in the forums focusing on equitable development (April 1), arts, parks and recreation (April 22) and small business development and sustainability (April 25).
Election season is an exciting time in a democratic society: you get to ask candidates your questions in public forums and they must answer them, or at least try to. You get to talk with your friends and neighbors about issues that are important to you. You get to evaluate multiple candidates on their ability to serve you and represent your needs, and then pick your favorite one.
Unfortunately, once you cast your ballot, the distance between you and the new mayor is vast; 1.5 million people live in the city of Philadelphia. Most people don’t engage with officials after they’re elected. As a single citizen, such efforts don’t yield much. An impassioned phone call to your senator’s office might result in a “thanks, I’ll let the senator know where you stand.”
At the governmental level, we should increase opportunities for democratic engagement by using tools like participatory budgeting, automatic voter registration, and online petitions. However, democracy can and should go beyond government. Our economy, for example, badly needs more democracy and accountability.
Is your internet slow and expensive? Too bad for you. Do the restaurants in your neighborhood treat their workers poorly and serve mediocre food? Tough luck. Has your landlord raised your rent again? Bummer.
What are our options in the face of these less-than-ideal economic choices? Certainly, we could choose to do without internet or restaurant food, or try to move to a new apartment. We could also organize to demand faster, cheaper internet, better treatment of restaurant workers, and affordable housing. We could lobby government to regulate businesses that don’t meet our standards. Or, we could create our own democratically-controlled alternatives.