America's Town Meetings set the stage, sending forth the clarion call of America's liberties. They represented the nation's purest and most proactive level of our participatory democracy. The Town Meeting, together with the wisdom of our Founding Fathers created the foundations of American governance.
What has become of that democracy? It has been reduced to powerful and moneyed special interests pursuing their priorities with a compliant government more responsive to their influence and "K Street" lobbyists than the public need or the public good. The growing lack of confidence in those who represent the American electorate in Congress is teetering toward single digits. As for our oil-addled executive branch, waiting for true leadership to reduce our addiction to oil and thereby meaningfully curbing its demand (and thereby reducing oil company profits) will sadly be a fruitless watch.
It is therefore a particularly hopeful omen that Americans at the town level are taking back their government, acting where our federal government and its agencies fail to act and especially so on an issue of vital importance to the nation and its future. That issue being to initiate the needed steps that will bring about a meaningful alteration in energy consumption to 'clean' energy from the fossil based fuels that are the root cause of global warming, and all the dangers it entails.
While Washington fiddles, towns across Connecticut are staring to act. Spurred on, first and foremost by the realization that something must be done in their own interest and that of the nation. That if they don't act by deed and example, nothing of significance on this core issue will come to pass. With an encouraging State government, and with the help of national non profit organizations such as SmartPower, a town like Sharon Connecticut is aiming to source 20% of its municipal power needs from alternative means (wind, sun and water) by 2010.
Sharon's First Selectman , Malcolm Brown was quoted by the local "Lakeville Journal", saying with typical New England restraint, "I think it's a very appropriate time to get everyone up to speed on this". He further advised that along with working sessions together with representatives of SmartPower, studying strategies on how to derive 20% of the town's municipal power from alternative sources by 2010, he had also been attending seminars on alternative energy.
Mr. and Mrs. Congressman, are you listening? And 20% clean energy by 2010? If we had the wisdom, the will, and most importantly the leadership to achieve just a 10% clean energy goal on a national scale by 2010, what an extraordinary achievement that would be!
What Malcolm Brown and towns like Sharon are doing may well change the energy landscape of the nation well before Washington takes the matter beyond lip service. "Connecticut has been the test kitchen for clean energy commitment", according to Keri Enright, program director for Smart Power. "Connecticut is a leader in the renewable energy field. It is something to be proud of".
Sharon, and the towns of Connecticut are showing the way. If people are going to take back their government, the Town and Selectman's meetings is the right place for our political renewal to begin. Towns and cities throughout the nation will take heart from their example, and perhaps, just perhaps we will all be able to win back our government again, a government committed to serving all the people rather than the "K Street" lobbyists.