Tag Archives: grassroots

Mega housing, retail development planned near Grand Canyon

The U.S. Forest Service is clearing the way for a sprawling urban development near the southern edge of the Grand Canyon. The development involves more than 2,100 housing units, 3 million square feet of retail space plus hotels, a spa and conference center.

The superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park has said the project is one of the greatest threats to Grand Canyon in the park’s 96-year-history of the park.

The proposal — by the Stilo Development Group — would transform the 580-resident community of Tusayan, Arizona, from a quiet tourist town into a sprawling complex of high-end homes, strip malls and resorts only a mile from the park boundary near the southern entrance.

Stilo partnered with the town of Tusayan in order to seek a federal permit to expand road and utility access through public lands in the Kaibab National Forest so development can proceed.

The U.S. Forest Service in mid-April began moving forward with the process to approve the special-use permit despite objections from the park service, park advocates and many environmental groups.

“The Forest Service is putting Grand Canyon National Park in the crosshairs by considering Tusayan’s dangerous, damaging plan for a mega-resort,” said Kevin Dahl of the National Parks Conservation Association. “This proposal is not in the public interest and is one of the greatest threats Grand Canyon National Park has seen in its history. The Forest Service can and should have rejected it out of hand.”

The National Park Service considers the mega-development a significant threat to Grand Canyon because it will require vast quantities of water and could lower the aquifer that feeds seeps, springs and streams that support wildlife and recreation on the park’s South Rim.

Groundwater pumping accompanying the development could also lower the aquifer that is the exclusive source of all water for Havasu Falls, the cultural foundation of the Havasupai tribe.

Remaking politics by the seat of our pants

American democracy is caught on the horns of a dilemma. Most Americans are feeling fed up with the Republicans and let down by the Democrats — with good reason. Both major parties are failing the country. Yet a third party isn’t the answer. Like it or not, America has a two-party system.

So how do we get regular people back in the driver’s seat of our government when both major parties are catering to a privileged few at the expense of everyone else.

We have to start with two articles of faith. First, it hasn’t always been like it is now and doesn’t have to be like this. Second, there is a way out of the trap we’re in.

We need to make the major parties better. They won’t change unless forced. It’s like the basic law of physics — an object at rest will remain at rest, unless some force makes it move. A corrupt political establishment will stay corrupt and failing parties will keep failing us, unless we make them change their ways.

When past generations freed themselves from similar traps, they started by shedding old labels and fashioning themselves a new identity. They attached that newly minted brand to breathtakingly ambitious agendas. And then they effectively forced those aspirations on the parties.

Current conditions dictate that this must be done again.

Given how messed up politics is at the moment, we cannot in good conscience call ourselves Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives. We deserve better and need something new.

We are commoners and we are politically homeless. The royals of our political system made us so.

We aim to make a household for the politically homeless and, in so doing, transform parties that are failing us. And we are pulling together to make it happen. With an organizing committee of citizens from all of Wisconsin’s eight congressional districts and 19 different counties, we just formed Blue Jean Nation.

Blue Jean Nation is not a party. It is a community and a movement in the making. Our end goal is to make common sense in government and concern for the common good far less uncommon. To reach that goal, we will work every day against political privilege.

We will do it from the ground up, with plain people leading the way, by the seat of our pants.

When faced with economic and political threats eerily similar to today’s conditions, past generations straightened things out on more than one occasion. I refuse to believe there is something so different about us that renders us less capable of making change than those who came before us. In so many ways, we have more going for us now than they did then.

Political reboots have happened before. Another one is desperately needed.

Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of “Blue Jeans in High Places: The Coming Makeover of American Politics.” Visit BlueJeanNation.com.

Changing our minds about Change.org

A year ago, a 22-year-old nanny working two jobs started a petition on Change.org protesting a $5 monthly banking fee levied by Bank of America. More than 300,000 people signed, and dozens of other citizens launched copycat petitions targeting their banks for similar fees.

In less than one month, Bank of America and other major national banks dropped the charges.

The incident was a remarkable grassroots victory for the one percent. It demonstrated the potential of the Web to empower the Davids of the world to fight back against the Goliaths without big advertising budgets and expensive public relations firms.

But now Change.org, which has brought massive attention to everything from social injustices, such as the Boy Scouts’ denying an Eagle award to a gay teen, to companies selling potentially deadly dog biscuits, is itself changing. Internal documents show the company has decided to allow corporate advertising, Republican Party solicitations and astroturf campaigns, in which masked big interests sponsor campaigns that pretend to be legitimate grassroots efforts.

Right-wing campaigns against choice, unions and other progressive issues will also find their way to the new Change.org.

In other words, Change.org has gone for the big bucks and left us the loose change.

According to documents leaked to the Campaign for America’s Future, a liberal organization, Change.org did not plan to alert users about its new direction. Instead, its strategy was a matter of “queuing up positive press profiles to launch around Oct. 22,” according to the company’s own words.

Benjamin Joffe-Walt, director of communications for Change.org, has said the company never intended to position itself as strictly progressive. He said a general guideline for the new company policy is that it will accept anything Google would allow.

The company apparently sees its mission as one of empowering everyone, regardless of perspective. That’s a sweet notion but not an accurate reflection of the role that the company has played in the political dialogue since its inception.

The airwaves are already flooded with right-wing opinionistas who present as facts views that defy actual facts. The Christian right has layers of TV and radio networks.

The corporate right owns the nation’s largest business paper, the Wall Street Journal, and its largest TV “news” outlet – Fox News. Corporations and politicians tied to special interest groups already have billions of dollars to propagandize the public.

Change.org offered a refreshing counterpoint to the right wing’s media dominance. It gave progressives a platform to inform others who are open to their way of thinking and to enlist them in their causes.

Change.org has changed its mind about us, and we have changed ours about it. We hope that the site’s major sponsors, including Sierra Club, Amnesty International and Credo Mobile, will take their business to Care2.com, a for-profit company that is proudly progressive, and to MoveOn.org, a non-profit progressive organization that offers petition software called SignOn.

Change.org officials call this merely a business decision, and we’d like to show them that selling out your base is not a smart business strategy.

Feingold starts group to fight corporate political influence

Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., has launched an organization to fight back against corporate influence in politics.

The Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel reports that Feingold hopes Progressives United will spark “a new progressive movement” that will build a grassroots movement to mitigate – and eventually overturn – the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which enabled unlimited corporate spending in the political campaigns.

“In my view – and the view of many people – it’s one of the most lawless decisions in the history of our country,” Feingold told HuffPo. “The idea of allowing corporations to have unlimited influence on our democracy is very dangerous, obviously. That’s exactly what it does … Things were like this 100 years ago in the United States, with the huge corporate and business power of the oil companies and others. But this time it’s like the Gilded Age on steroids.”

Feingold, long a champion of campaign finance reform, lost his re-election bid in 2010 against wealthy political newcomer Ron Johnson, who benefited from $3 million dollars in independent third-party advertising. Feingold received about $1 million worth of such advertising but refused to accept any ads from the kind of third-party groups that the Citizens United decision bolstered.

Johnson’s campaign spent a total of $14 million, while Feingold spend $13 million, making their race the most expensive campaign for federal office in Wisconsin history.

Feingold’s new political action committee will support progressive candidates at the local, state and national levels, in addition to holding the media and elected officials accountable on the group’s key priorities, HuffPo reports.

Feingold is currently teaching law school at Marquette University and writing a book on foreign policy.