Jason Simmons, intellectual muscle behind the on-line community www.thishappening.com, has spearheaded another virtual (and physical) gathering. Progress Pittsburgh is a group of like-minded people driven to change the way things are done in Da 'Burgh.
Using the power of on-line co-ordination, ala the Dean campaign and MoveOn.org, Simmons has developed both an organizational model and a simple, yet robust technology to serve as a vessle and vehicle for social change.
One of the ironies, however, is that this is not a "let's take the battle to the Republicans" campaign. Instead, it focuses on challenging the long-term Democratic power structure that has traditionally held sway over the City.
One of the primary objectives of Progress Pittsburgh include creating a bloc of 10,000 to 20,000 informed voters that can be effectively mobilized to change the shape of local politics.
The plan involves bringing a broad coalition of progressive organizations together under the Progress Pittsburgh umbrella, including: Everybody VOTE, Ground Zero Action Network, MoveOn Pittsburgh, thisishappening, Pennsylvania Hip Hop Political Convention, Democracy For America Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh League of Pissed Off Voters.
Progress Pittsburgh's Principles
We believe that it's time for a new kind of democracy, one that empowers citizens rather than leaving decisions in the hands of a political process distorted by cronyism and patronage. It has become the government's duty to make the process of governance (and all of the related facts and information) transparent and accessible to its citizens. We need a more participatory democracy, in both physical interactions and online. We need an “operating system” for a new democracy.
We believe that our collective creativity is the future. To make our region competitive on the national and international level, politicians need to intelligently harness the collective talent of the region and challenge the traditional boundaries of political practice to forge new working partnerships and collaborations. We need leadership that actively engages citizens in a deep dialogue about the future. We need creative approaches to local and regional policy-making and methods of engaging citizens in the democratic process: understanding the issues, evaluating candidates, voting, working for change, and running for office. From creative dialogue, better, more informed solutions to the region's challenges will emerge.
We believe that integrity and ethics are progressive values. We need informed leaders with integrity and vision to acknowledge the lessons of the past and depart from failed and ineffective practices when it best serves the future of our city and region. Our elected politicians need to communicate personal conviction and sincerity of purpose, and be dedicated to the public good rather than party politics. To nurture a sustainable voting constituency (and true democracy), our leaders must actively demonstrate why they should be entrusted to serve in public office.
We believe in fostering a diverse region and promoting inclusiveness. Our communities should welcome the differences of all people, including, but not limited to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, orientation,disability, age and marital status. Even beyond that our leaders should continually work to make our region more diverse. There is evidence that the cities which are welcoming to diversity have stronger economic and population growth than less diverse areas. Recognizing the importance for our region to grow, we understand diversity is not only important socially, but paramount to Pittsburgh's future viability. We believe diversity should also include access to opportunity and representation in government and business leadership. It is proven in the world of business that diversity enhances creativity, productivity and innovation. Promoting diversity will enhance our region's competitiveness in an increasingly diverse world, improve relations between members of our regional community, and increase our cultural richness.
We believe our region's policy decisions should be guided by the common sense ideals of sustainability. Sustainable public policy balances economic, social, and environmental consequences with a long-term perspective in the decision making process. Our leaders can no longer view our region's economic prosperity, social equity, and environmental quality as separate, unrelated parts of our community. The communities we live in and the region as a whole is only truly strengthened when positive growth occurs in all three areas. Given the myriad of challenges our region faces, we must redesign, improve and rebuild by developing new industries that offer quality paying jobs, ensuring access to affordable housing and creating a regional land-use/transportation plan. For our region to move forward we must have a sustainable vision that builds self-supporting communities and provides a healthy, productive, and meaningful life for all community residents, present and future.
We believe that we should be governed by elected officials who make measured decisions based upon careful thought and deliberation. Through creative acts of policy, diplomacy, consensus-building and leadership, our leaders should always demonstrate common sense. But now more than ever, with the long-needed restructuring of our region at hand, we cannot afford to passively coast through these changes. We need proactive, informed leaders who will exercise sound logic and broad-minded thinking in shaping the future of our City and region.
We believe that government is to be "of and for the people". By definition, our elected leaders are answerable to us: the tax-paying citizens. Elected officials must recognize that they do not have a wholesale mandate to operate in a vacuum, governing by whim. Decisions affecting all citizens cannot continue to be made on the basis of special interests, personal agendas, and blatant self-promotion. We need mature leaders who will put an end to finger pointing, take responsibility for their decisions and actions, and be able to intelligently communicate why exactly it is that they do what they do.