Sunday, January 15, 2012

2012-01-15 "Occupy Napa movement finds its local voice" by the editorial board of "Napa Valley Register"
As a movement, Occupy Napa — like its national precursor — does not have a tangible measure of success.
There are no candidates to support. The group offers no detailed plan for how to fix that which it is says is broken — Corporate America.
Still, Occupy Napa’s accomplishments are many.
Both locally and nationally, it is primarily a message movement. Participants in Occupy Wall Street seek to increase public awareness of their claims of corporate greed and the inequity in the country’s tax system. Occupy Napa has been able to echo that message while also using it as a foundation for other locally relevant issues.
The group’s assembly at Napa Valley College in December doubled as a sounding board for the continued safety concerns at the adjacent Napa State Hospital. Occupy’s local weekly meetings and networking also helped spawn Napa Local, an advocacy group working to support privately owned business.
Representatives of Occupy Napa and Napa Local said last week they have already met with the mayor to voice concerns about the possibility of a Starbucks coffeehouse moving in downtown.
In some ways, participants believe the fact that an Occupy Napa group even exists is a measure of success. It is rare for communities of this size to enjoy such localized support, they say.
According to group members speaking with the Register’s editorial board this week, a core of about a dozen members meet every week supported by a total of about 30 active participants.
Local assemblies have drawn even larger numbers.
Occupiers discuss community issues and determine where to direct their energy. This modern form of civic activism doesn’t come with a leadership structure, instead relying on the lone power of a voting process to guide their steps.
This “horizontal” leadership is both a blessing and curse, said Occupier Julio Soriano, as it gives the group great flexibility with its structure and purpose but can also leave its message vulnerable to those seeking to hijack an assembly’s cause and publicity.
Locally, that’s been less of a problem than it’s been nationally, where confrontations with police — like in nearby Oakland and Davis — have been the story rather than the Occupy message.
The Napa movement has been well organized and its assemblies well executed. Communication between Occupiers, local law enforcement and local government has been wide open, resulting in effective and peaceful demonstrations.
Yes, the amount of tax revenue corporations contribute to this country’s bottom line is a serious concern and yes, creating awareness of the issue locally can only help promote solutions and better regulations for this unfortunate byproduct of capitalism.
Activism is not a new concept in Napa. Through an active culture of civic responsibility at Napa Valley College, many organized movements have made an impact in recent years. Occupy Napa developed out of a local US Uncut group that got together in 2010. Dream Act supporters demonstrated on campus that same year. Occupy Napa helped form Napa Local.
Soriano is one of several college-age activists spearheading these causes. Fellow student Alex Shantz is also among them and leading the Napa Local initiative. About half the Occupy Napa group is made up of college students.
Whether you subscribe to Occupy Napa’s causes or vehemently oppose them, you will likely share in the movement’s clear lasting benefit — the development of Napa’s future leadership.
These are, by and large, thoughtful, informed individuals with the ability and passion to effect positive change for decades to come.

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