I give up. Local democracy does not work at any level. Tonight, a plethora of mostly white, middle-class, middle-aged parents told the San Leandro City Council: “This is where we draw the line. Don’t spy on our kids, don’t criminalize them from kindergarten on”. In essence they said: “this is your chance to release some steam, show that you are something other than a rubber stamp for the police, show that citizens have a chance to have their voices heard”.
The arguments were intelligent, well-reasoned and researched and made politely. They came from a law professor, a poverty expert, a public health researcher, a former School Board member who had just been recognized with his own day (Dec. 18th), two respected community leaders. They came from parents. They all fell in deaf ears. “We know you are moving your lips but even if we could hear you, we would disagree with you on principle” dead ears.
If there was any doubt that there is nothing that anyone can say or do that would ever influence the San Leandro City Council to vote against anything proposed by the police department, that doubt went away tonight – and with that, any incentive for anyone that has any concerns about the police department to dialogue with city authorities.
If you have a City Council which is institutionally unable to respond to public concerns, then social change cannot be accomplished using the extant political system. I am not suggesting any alternatives right now, but I’m willing to listen to suggestions.