The New Municipal Movements

In the midst of this milieu, a small constellation of civic platforms have emerged with the purpose of transforming how US cities and municipalities are actually run. Blurring the lines between social movement and local governance, these municipalist experiments organize on the basis of existing municipalities or districts, demanding socially just and ecological solutions to issues that concern the community as a whole. Yet their common agenda extends far beyond electing progressive parties to local office. Patiently, through a combination of political education, grassroots mobilization and reform, municipalists seek to place decision-making power back in the hands of citizens. Municipalism is not simply a new strategy for local governance, but rather is a path to social freedom and stateless democracy.

In Seattle, the Neighborhood Action Coalition (NAC) formed during the dramatic aftermath of Trump’s election. Like many anti-Trump groups, their primary goal is to protect targeted groups against hate crimes and provide immediate services. Yet instead of convening big, amorphous “general assemblies” like Occupy Wall Street, the NAC delineates its chapters according to Seattle’s dozen or so city districts. Each neighborhood chapter is empowered to select its own activities and many groups have evolved through door-to-door listening campaigns.

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