Democracy in action

Council agrees to consider Second Amendment resolution

Former City Council candidate Toby Schindelbeck is still playing politics, and his latest gambit has got the editor of the Enterprise-Record all lathered up. “Oh, this will be fun,” David Little exulted in his weekly column Sunday (March 3).

Little is referring to Schindelbeck’s formal request in a letter to the council that it consider a resolution that he says upholds the Second Amendment.

Little was excited because he thinks the council is “wasting time on matters beyond its control” when it takes positions on what he contends are non-local issues. He was glad to see the council’s liberal majority—those who supported, for example, a “corporate personhood” resolution—forced to consider a conservative resolution.

Like all elected officials, the council members have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, including the Second Amendment. Schindelbeck was asking them to go further. He wanted them to oppose “any provision infringing upon the Second Amendment,” whatever that means, and agree that no “additional regulation [of arms] is necessary in California.”

As vague as the resolution is, gun control is a big issue these days and deserving of discussion. I don’t understand the notion that asking our local elected officials to debate and, possibly, take a stand on current state and national issues is somehow “wasting time” because there’s nothing local agencies can do about them.

Underpinning that argument is the misperception that important state and national issues—of war and peace, spending and taxing, law and order—are not also local issues. When a local youth dies in the Iraq war financed in part by local taxpayers’ money, it’s a local issue. When courts radically change the electoral process, it’s a local issue. When the national government is unable to secure our borders, it’s a local issue.

Another misperception is Little’s notion that democracy works from the top down. I would argue that it’s the other way around: that it works—or should work—from the grassroots up, and that one of the best ways for communities to influence state and national governments is to engage with their local city councils and boards of supervisors.

President Obama expressed this well in his recent State of the Union speech:

“It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation.”

As George Lakoff points out, “‘Our unfinished task’ refers to citizens—us—as ruling the government, not the reverse. ‘We’ are making the government do what is right. To work ‘on behalf of the many, and not just the few.’”

So I support Toby Schindelbeck’s effort to engage the City Council on the issue of weapons and am glad that the council unanimously agreed Tuesday (March 5) to agendize his resolution for its April 2 meeting. It should make for a rip-roaring discussion. As Little says, “Isn’t politics fun?”