In answer to our friend Kim on 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore and participatory Voting

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It should come as no surprise to readers to this blog that we have taken significant issue with Chicago 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore. He is a registered democrat, which for a Progressive means the highest sort of scrutiny. We all know the hypocrisy and pandering of the Republicans. We will not tolerate reactionary and exclusionary, or corporately influenced policy from democrats. That does create something of a conundrum for democrat voters. Demonization of democrats by democrats feels like something akin to Hari-kari. And all too often our elected officials throw us scraps, which we grasp desperately at. A recent post from a friend on Facebook illustrated that point. We thought it important to say a bit about Mr. Moore’s record.

Here is the key difference; republicans attack other republicans when they deviate from the lock-step ideology. As concerned, engaged citizens, we reject the idea of sacrosanct party politics. We are not beholden to a political party, but to human rights, human dignity and community.

As far as Moore’s participatory voting is concerned, it is a slight of hand, and merely a token effort. He stands solidly with the administration on school closings, and wholeheartedly champions opening charter schools. His participatory voting place is IN a charter school, as a means of legitimizing them to the community. As for the voting, people are voting for park benches not policy—sidewalks; not safety.

Though the constituency of the 49th ward is very diverse, the voting record so far has been 70% white, educated property owners. That could be a lack of interest in the community, or it could more likely be a failure of outreach by Moore’s office. The rallys and meetings I have been to around the ward are far more diverse than the current voting block would imply. The good alderman might engage that diversity by getting out into those communities and confirming their agency and investment.

Moore has not appeared nor have I seen public endorsement for peace initiatives in Rogers Park. He refused to address thousands of constituents back in March, hundreds of whom, including Revolution and Beer, ultimately marched on his home. The blight of East Howard Street is disgraceful. Storefronts remain empty. Current anchor businesses that remain there and which prevent a complete economic collapse of the neighborhood would be prime candidates for TIF funds. Invest in the community. Invest in small business, not in chain stores that draw business away from whole swaths of the community.

Chris Patterson of the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI), Rogers Park Violence Prevention Coalition and the PeaceAngels told Revolution and beer that “Rogers Park is slated to receive substantial funds in the near future and no community organizations nor business I’ve talked to know anything about it. I believe Joe owes it to the people to receive input from them as to how they would like funds to be spent in their communities.” Not on water fountains, I would add, but on a future.

The protests saturday made an impression. Friend and activist Kelly Hayes said that, “several people who met us at our morning action said that they were glad we made sure that our concerns were heard. A number of them said that they learned a lot about what they didn’t want to see happen to PB in their own communities. They recognized that this is not what a system that was intended to empower the marginalized looks like. Some of them had already had doubts upon noticing certain things about PB49 while visiting, including the fact that every sign about PB is labelled with the words, “Joe Moore’s Participatory Budgeting Initiative.” As one advocate told me, “If participatory budgeting doesn’t belong to the people, it isn’t real, and very few people are going to feel inspired by it.”

Instead, the emphasis currently is on the Loyola corridor, which includes the expulsion of low income, fixed income, elderly and disabled residents by private firms-under the alderman’s nose. And in the neighborhood around the 49th ward offices reside an oasis of small theaters and bars catering primarily to his participatory voting constituency.

Members of Occupy Rogers Park Chicago, who has taken a strong lead and stance on this issue, feel very strongly about participatory democracy, and any politicized manifestation of the concept that cheapens what should be a valuable tool of empowerment.

Local activist and organizer Babur Balos is adamant: “We love the idea of participatory democracy, but with PB49, we have an alderman shutting down the efforts of people who are willing to invest their time and money to make the process more inclusive. Moore controls the process, right down to the flyers that are distributed, with his name stamped on everything connected to the project. It’s hard for people to get excited about joining a committee where they won’t be allowed to make real change happen.”

He has dodged people and organizations within the community. Somehow he is always out of town or away on business. Hmm? Mr. Moore is a public official, his salary paid for with our tax dollars. And while face to face he is a nice enough bloke, who throws “great” costume parties, it is our responsibility to hold him accountable, and that we shall.

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