Monday, July 21, 2008

News from Boston-Cambridge and North Bridge chapters

So far this summer, members of the Boston-based Boston Cambridge Alliance and the Concord-area North Bridge Alliance have continued work on some long-term initiatives.

BCA member Joanna Herlihy has been editing video from the 2006 New England Roundtable, which took place in 2006 in Burlington, Vermont. The Roundtable brought academics and civic leaders together to discuss participatory budgeting and democratization of city and regional management. In participatory budgeting, residents come together to discuss and decide budget priorities for their town or city. Some 300 cities and towns in Brazil practice participatory budgeting, including Porto Alegre, a city of 1.3 million people, in which residents meet in city assemblies, determine how money should be spent, and then elect a city budget committee to allocate the city's $200 million dollar budget according to popular priorities. You can read more here.

BCA'er Dave Lewit and North Bridge member Cynthia Ritsher will be helping with the editing process. The video will be used to organize and publicize a proposed new roundtable on regionalization, which chapter members hope to hold early next year.

Chapter organizing for a proposed state-level trade commission continues as well. Dave Lewit attended a June 25 meeting of New Hampshire trade activists, at which two members of that state's Citizens Trade Commission were present, and BCA members Jed Schwartz joined Dave Lewit and former State Rep. Karen O'Donnell to observe a meeting of the trade commission in Concord, New Hampshire on July 7. Vermont Assistant Attorney General Elliot Burg explained to the commissioners how Vermont’s trade commission used hearings and legal handholds to affect pro-corporate US trade agreements. The NH commission proceeded to set up their first hearing. Meanwhile, creation of a Massachusetts commission waits on the passage of our Globalization Impact Bill, which will not emerge from Rules Committee this legislative session, and will depend on our activist efforts beginning again in January.
Chapter members are talking to other state commission members and fair trade organizers to get some ideas on how to improve and update the Massachusetts bill, and we'll be consulting with the bill's sponsor, Rep. Byron Rushing.

Returning from a 4th of July event in Vermont, Cynthia Ritsher and Dave Lewit dialoged with VT state police Sgt. Morton about Democracy Protection. He stressed how Homeland Security used $$ for local staffing to entice police reluctantly into Homeland Security work... Meanwhile Dave is spanning bureaucratic hurdles in dealing with Boston police and ACLU to start a Democracy Protection/Homeland security discussion in Boston. We'd also like to bring the project to Cambridge. To participate, email, or call 781-894-1179. For info on the Democracy Protection toolkit, see the New England chapters' website at

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