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When Politics Is Local, Who Decides?


When Politics Is Local, Who Decides?

David Morris

Who decides? Conservative Republicans in Texas are split on the issue. Darren Hodges, a Tea Party councilman in the West Texas city of Fort Stockton, fiercely defends his town’s recent decision to ban plastic bags. City officials have a “God-given right” to make that decision he tells the New York Times.


Ah yes, the old shibboleth of “The tyranny of the majority.”


CTS - Did you even bother to read the article? Your comment suggests you did not.


This is an interesting piece. I agree with the author that the courts are likely not to be allies in the fight for local control. But that does not mean that people who think that in many instances those affected at the local level should have a big say in the decision-making should become discouraged if a number of decisions go against local control. As the author points out, the tobacco lobby tried to use the economic argument to end local no-smoking ordinances, but their efforts ultimately failed.

But also recognize there are issues that affect people beyond the local level that require processes beyond local control. Not everything should be left up to individual communities, like discrimination for example.


An explanation of precisely the reason why dissident parties must engage in politics at ALL levels - concentrating on just the local is not enough …

I hope folks read and understand this …


Do you mean tyranny of the money?


“The new Republican Governor of Texas Greg Abbott stands with Quintero. In a speech last month to the TPPF he condemned how democracy run amok threatens Texas with becoming “California-ized.” He declared, “Large cities that represent about 75 percent of the population in this state are doing this to us.” Huh? Who does Abbott think are “us?” Might not 75 percent of the population more accurately be described as “we the people?”

Thank you for this statement, Mr. Morris. It encapsulates a position and phenomena that allows a FEW to define and control the narrative. On the basis of this minority group of Dominators, false conclusions are drawn about the citizenry (and its positions) at large. I have been observing how often this particular posture is used… even by persons in comment threads. They reinforce what’s true for a dominant minority group AS IF it constitutes the will and wishes of the whole American people.

This group favors war, demonstrates racism, is misogynistic, and hostile to human, labor, Civil, and environmental rights. It’s funded by Pete Peterson, ALEC, the Koch Brothers and other financially empowered entities. Still, it’s problematic when the programming and Talking Points that are manufactured by this small, albeit empowered societal segment, are carted out to allegedly represent–and speak for all.

I have not read the rest of the piece, but wanted to point this factor out while it hit me.


"Sometimes courts will step in to protect local authority from state tyranny. After the federal government abdicated responsibility for regulating the fast growing fracking industry communities began to step in. Pittsburgh became the first to ban fracking within city limits. The Pennsylvania legislature stripped it of the right to do so but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reinstated Pittsburgh’s authority. New York courts also have upheld local authority over fracking. The resulting proliferation of cities and counties banning fracking in New York ultimately persuaded a reluctant Governor Andrew Cuomo to impose a statewide ban in 2014.

On the other hand, after the citizens of Longmont, a suburb of Denver approved a ballot initiative to ban fracking, the Colorado Attorney General sued and a Colorado court overturned that law. (Longmont is appealing.) "

The deliberate attempt to turn battles over to localities instead of rendering a binding NATIONAL EPA ruling slows down the process. It’s the legal equivalent of a dangerous game of whack-a-mole.

Worst of all, if TPP passes, nothing will be in place to stop a foreign or global mineral/energy corporation from suing a locality if its existing laws preclude said entity’s demand for profits.

Since mass media is owned by a handful of massive corporations, VERY few Americans know about TPP (or only hear laudatory comments like those that greased through NAFTA like collective sodomy to the masses) along with most of the critical issues that impact their lives. Soundbyte theater replaces veracity.


I assume you know what shibboleth means?


The question of which level of government should have primacy is vexing to me.

We hail local control when it dovetails with our views, but what about when it doesn’t?

If a village, town, city or county passes a patently unjust ordinance or law, do we defer to the concept of local control, or do we call for state intervention?

And if the state enacts discriminatory legislation, don’t we demand federal intercession?

What takes precedence - justice or a fealty to a particular theory of governmental control?

I don’t think there’s an easy answer that would satisfy both. There have been many instances where the two have been at odds with each other.

I can say that my conscience wouldn’t be satisfied with the abrogation of what I consider to be equitable in the name of the maintenance of a consistent political structure.


One key issue was not addressed by this piece, or any of the comments, the one the title suggested to me. The impression is of a locality, perhaps a city, that “wants” one policy while the state (or federal government) wants another. But actually, we’re talking about large groups of people. A minority within that locality would prefer the same outcome as the larger entity–then who decides? You can talk about blue cities and red states, but everyplace is actually fairly purple, albeit some areas may be plum purple and others violet. A coalition of landowners in the southern tier of New York State is talking secession, because they want to lease their land for fracking…if they made as much money at it as they dream, and their water was ruined, they could always move, I suppose…north into the area where it’s banned, maybe? It’s all a bit more complicated than one locality equaling one view, and another entity all agreed upon the opposite view.


In a direct democracy, if a law you don’t agree with passes, nothing stops you from introducing a law to change or revoke that law, or to exempt you or your community from it.

Having no corrupted politicians to make the laws the People can make ourselves with encrypted votes would be real democracy at last.


It seems pretty straightforward: put control at as low a level as possible consistent with not stepping on equality of choice.

This the power to ban fracking, but not ban marriage equality.


But what if a city wants to defy a state ban on same sex marriage, or a state wants to make pot legal, despite federal law criminalizing it?

How do you say, you can do X, but not Y?

That’s the conundrum.

I assume we agree that federal intervention to force desegregation in the South was necessary, but we would oppose a move to enforce federal drug laws in a state that had legalized marijuana, because in both instances, we support what we deem to be the righteous outcome.

For me, what conforms to my sense of humanity takes precedence over the dynamics of power distribution. I’ll support whatever political entity is doing what I conceive to be “the right thing”.

But that power has to be distributed in some consistent fashion for government to function, doesn’t it?

Thus the paradox, to my mind.


You’re right. (I’m still in pain and not sleeping well because of injury, so my brain isn’t working as well as I’d like.)

It should have been (maybe): devolve as low as possible consistent with increasing the scope of individual choice while maintaining or increasing equality. (I’m trying to channel Rawls)

So defying the state ban on marriage equality increases individual choice and increases equality, as does the state making dope legal in the teeth of the feds.


But any governmental structure has to have a consistent assignation of political power, doesn’t it?

So what’s just, and what’s necessary from that standpoint, will often be at odds, and I’m damned if I can untie that Gordian knot.

I’d like to see someone with more activated synapses than I take on the task.

I hope you feel better soon.


Does it?

Right now we’re operating under what I’d call “psychopath law”, where the psychopath(s) make(s) all the rules and everyone else must obey. Top-down, iow.

But the Constitution implicitly specifies bottom-up power: the feds nominally have only the powers explicitly granted, with the former nations, now mere shires, getting a piece of what’s left, and We the People nominally getting everything else.

Why shouldn’t we demand that it in fact work that way, rather than just nominally so?

(Tks for the good wishes)


Well, what I’m trying to say is that a fealty to local control can lead to unjust outcomes, depending on the nature of the local authority.

Allegiance to central control may elicit the same result.

So I don’t think either approach is morally superior to the other, and I don’t know of any way to reconcile morality, justice, humanity, what have you, with a devotion to either.

If you have mensches in charge, it’s academic. Everyone on every level’s trying to do the right thing.

But we don’t live on Vulcan, Captain.

(De nada. Live long and prosper.)