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Ideas for Going Local

February 9, 2011

I am hitched to the idea of localization. I have said for many years that taxes should go to the local community sector first, then the state, then the federal. Having blind faith in state and federal government to use our tax dollars wisely – meaning for the best benefit of the taxpaying citizen – is naive. Local control over tax monies is the way to go because accountability is more immediate and accessible. What is lacking at state and federal levels is accountability as evidenced by the municipal bond mess and Wall Street fiasco where government regulators failed to do their job. My ideas are not radical, in fact in today’s Yes magazine on the Five Ways to Help Your Community Go Local, tax money accountability is number two.

Five Ways to Help Your Community Go Local

1. As a consumer, look at the big stuff first.
Our choices for bank accounts, groceries, and energy consumption, for example, can play a big role in helping promote local self-sufficiency. Some groups ask residents to shift 10 percent of their spending from outside entities or chains to local businesses.

2. As a citizen, exercise your right to participate in spending decisions.
Learn where your tax money is spent. Can your city or town source more office supplies from local dealers? More school lunches from local ranchers and farmers? Are local governments using local insurers, banks, and suppliers? Learn about the current situation from purchasing officials (including their opinions) and available tools, such as local purchasing preferences and farm to school programs to inform suggestions.

3. Utilize the power of anchor institutions.
Just as with government entities, shifting the spending of hospitals, prisons, museums and other community-rooted institutions can create huge positive impacts and new opportunities. These institutions often have public service as part of their mission, and often are open to citizen input. Community-Wealth.org provides a vast array of tools to help you get started.

Also if you support local civic groups, youth sports teams, etc., learn where they’re going for their needs. It’s stunning how often local non-profit groups will solicit independent businesses for donations, yet buy their food, supplies, printing, etc. from chain competitors.

4. Help provoke a pro-local business alliance.
The key word is provoke! Most of us don’t have time to create new organizations, but as the success of local businesses and community alliances grows, arranging an effective public meeting often will ignite ongoing organizing.

5. Differentiate our roles as citizens vs. consumers.
While shifting consumer decisions is a core goal of any educational efforts, the most influential community campaigns inspire residents to recognize their power and responsibility to guide the community’s future.

This last one is very important. I frequently hear about consumer issues and not so much about citizens issues. I just wrote an article talking about Capitalism and Democracy. The former is an economic system that does not protect your rights, while the latter is based in Constitutional law whose very function is to guarantee our rights as free individuals. I find too often politicians getting the two confused. I hear businesses extol no regulation, no taxes, no interference with their capitalistic enterprises, then go off and exploit workers, foul the environment, and cheat the IRS. There are laws and regulations on business to keep the honest, keep them operating in an ethical fashion, and to keep them from exploiting citizens who work for them as employees, and stop them from polluting America’s shared air, land, and waterways.

Read the entire article, click here

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