How to Take Over City Government

Our model is based in part on the incredible success of the Richmond Progressive Alliance (“RPA”) from Richmond, CA.

Richmond, a city of 110,000 people, had spent 100 years under the thumb of Chevron.  The large refinery dominated not only the economy, but the city council and mayor.  In addition to donating to every elected official, Chevron actually had a desk in city hall in the 1990s.  About every 10 years there would be a leak or explosion, leading to environmental damage and sending hundreds of residents to the hospital.  The city had the second highest homicide rate in the US and also had terrible police-brutality issues.  The majority African-American and Latino population were also majority renters, and housing prices rose while wages stagnated.  It was a troubled city.

In 2003 a group of residents had had enough.  They formed the Richmond Progressive Alliance, a coalition of groups with a common mission of returning their government to the people.  Over a short period of time the RPA became the main political force to be reckoned with, winning a supermajority on the city council and electing Gayle McLaughlin, a Green Party mayor, who served two terms and stepped down only because of term limits.

The policy reforms in Richmond are even more impressive.  They reformed the police force, which is now considered one of the best community-policing forces in the country.  They reduced the homicide rate by 75 percent.  They passed the first rent control law in the state of California in 30 years.  They forced Chevron to pay an additional $7.5 million in taxes per yer.  And that’s just the highlights.  (To find out more about the RPA, check out the video we produced for them:  RPA video.)

Our model is based in part on theirs, with additional insights taken from Bernie Sanders (town halls), Jane McAlevey (convincing coalition partners), Les Leopold (reversing runaway inequality), and Wellstone (campaign training).

This model creates a new paradigm for politics, one where:

  • Our political base is not formed by those most likely to vote, but by those communities least served by our government;
  • Candidates don’t choose themselves, but are chosen by our community, maintaining long-term relationships that are stronger than the temptations of money; and
  • Instead of “holding our representatives accountable” in an antagonistic relationship, we as residents help our elected officials enact policies after elections are over.

Do you have a grassroots group that is ready to take your city to the next level?  Or would you like to learn how to start a group in your town?

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