by Kirby Lindsay
This column was originally published in the North Seattle Herald-Outlook on November 29, 2006.
That’s it! You’ve had it!
You’ve decided it’s time to act and unleash your long-harbored, diabolical plan of full-scale revolt.
You’re tired of the chaos, the stupidity or the manifest illogic apparent in the, well, something about the world, and you’ve decided it’s time you took charge.
You’ve thought about it, dreamed about it and muttered incoherently about it to yourself as you’ve driven home through your neighborhood each night.
Now, what to do?
Having harbored quite a few plans of my own, brought several to reality and aided others as they unleashed their twisted visions onto the mean streets of funky and fomented Fremont, I have the knowledge.
And now, I will reveal the secrets of just how you – yes, you – can mobilize a community organization to your own agenda.
Every Seattle community and neighborhood has a representative organization. Larger neighborhoods have community councils as well as a local chamber of commerce while the largest neighborhoods have small organizations that represent specific sections within the neighborhood.
To join, most require payment of membership dues. In addition, some groups, like the Fremont Arts Council asks for some sort of participation. Fremont Chamber of Commerce by-laws mention dues but nothing else – no business license, address requirement or proof of life – is required to join.
Even before you pay, you can attend meetings and meet the people. Volunteer. If they pass out sign-up sheets, scribble down your John Hancock. If they ask for a show of hands, work those shoulder muscles. When discussion turns to board elections, nominate yourself.
If shy, or fearful of drawing too much attention to your revolutionary zest, sidle up to the current president and casually mention that you might be interested. Most community organizations to which you’ve shown even reluctant enthusiasm will put you on the board instantaneously.
Don’t limit yourself to just a board position. Ask about the presidency. Most community organizations are just as desperate for a president as they are for someone to write the newsletter, chair the land-use committee or organize a street clean up.
Win Them Over
Once in, bring in people. If you don’t have friends, make them.
Working inside a community organization you’ll find many like-minded people interested in changing the world. Whatever it takes, find a couple of dozen people who think as you do and want to carry out your desperate and devious designs, and get them to join as well.
You simply need a voting majority to claim total control of whatever organization you want, and voting majorities, especially in community organizations, can be 20 people.
In Fremont, this was actually done. Granted, the story changes dramatically depending on who tells it, and the number of different versions long ago slipped into double digits.
The basic story goes something like: Once upon a time Fremont had a community council. Concerned with community, residential and business issues, the Fremont Community Council had to represent the diverse population here.
However, some say city employees, a few of them residents in Fremont and others representing ‘interested’ City of Seattle departments, took over board positions and voted city policy.
Others say that, in a power play, Fremont business owners staged a coup.
At the 1980 annual election, around 50 people showed up, all paid members, and ignoring the slate of candidates up for re-election, they elected their own onto the board.
The Fremont Community Council quickly died out after that, and the Fremont Neighborhood Council rose from the ashes, with by-laws that allow only residents that live within specific, defined boundaries to vote.
In 1982, Fremont business owners and managers started a local Chamber of Commerce and both organizations, along with the Fremont Arts Council, consider issues and maintain what little order ever exists here.
To overthrow a community organization takes little more than a group of people dedicated to a good idea, with the will to volunteer their time and energy. To run a community organization takes exactly the same thing. If you want change, take action! Get involved! Have at it, and ‘Viva la Revolución!’
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.