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COMMONS MAGAZINE

The Vision to Fix a Tragedy No One Wants to Think About

September 11, 2014

More than 4500 pedestrians are killed by motor vehicles every year on the streets of America--more than those who died in the horror of 9/11. 

The Vision to Fix a Tragedy No One Wants to Think About

September 11, 2014

More than 4500 pedestrians are killed by motor vehicles every year on the streets of America--more than those who died in the horror of 9/11. 

The Vision to Fix a Tragedy No One Wants to Think About

September 11, 2014

More than 4500 pedestrians are killed by motor vehicles every year on the streets of America--more than those who died in the horror of 9/11. 

A Southern town that broadens government role in promoting the common good.  (Photo by J. Stephen Conn under a CC license)

The Little City That Could

September 11, 2014 | By David Morris

When two politicians debate the role of government, it almost always is a Democrat vs. Republican.  Which is why it was so refreshing and instructive to read of the debate taking place among Republicans in a small city in southeastern Kentucky.

What If We Put the Future First?

September 9, 2014 | By On the Commons Team

What if we put the future first?

What if we prioritized the well being of everyone’s kids and grandkids ahead of today’s myopic economic and political interests? What if we honored everyone’s right to sustainably use the commons?

These are questions at the heart of the groundbreaking Future First 2014 Women’s Congress held November 7-9 in Minneapolis: to call on the untapped power of women to halt the degradation of our planet.

 Annette Bernhardt under a CC license

People's Climate Justice Movement Tackles Threats Facing Us

September 3, 2014

A  90-year old water main ruptured in Los Angeles this summer, wasting ten million gallons of water in the midst of a record drought.

Glendale, California is one of 2000 US cities with municipal power utilities.  (Photo by Scott Lowe under a CC license.)

Missing the Whole Story on Public Radio

September 2, 2014 | By David Morris

Public radio’s David Brancaccio is a solid reporter.  Perhaps the cognitive dissonance of talking about public ownership on a business program called Marketplace caused him to go astray.  Nevertheless a few days ago he did his listeners a disservice when commenting on the city of Somerset, Kentucky’s new venture: Selling gasoline directly to city residents.  

Somerset’s entrepreneurialism prompted him to explore other municipal enterprises,   “I looked around for some precedents and they are interesting.”

Minnesota Governor Floyd Olson was elected on a platform advocating that resources be "operated democratically for the benefit of all the people".

A Great Old Idea for the New Economy

August 13, 2014

I recently attended Common Bound, a Boston conference sponsored by the New Economy Coalition, a network of organizations committed to a more just and sustainable economy.  The gathering included progressive luminaries and a wide range of thoughtful presentations.  It was thankfully diverse, in gender, racial background and age.  Indeed, most of the staff of the New Economy Coalition is under thirty, a sign that Millennials have gone beyond Occupy in seeking practical alternatives to our present failed economic order.  But what seemed missing at

(By Ijirawu Jimbo under a CC license)

Care of of the Commons. Care of the Soul

August 11, 2014

Human decisions and human activities are imposing enormous costs on the life-support systems of planet Earth.  Left unchecked, the results will be catastrophic for all living things, including humans.  Some of the damage to life and the systems that support life is irreversible. Fortunately, the message is out there to “save the environment.” 

Animalia Terrestria

July 30, 2014

Animalia Terrestria

I set my feet
          in the slow-moving, foliate river
and sometimes they are rich with brown oily fur
and sometimes their lime webs are sails that let in the dim sun
and sometimes they shine pebbled like black leather,
          algae tangling my claws in curtained clouds
and sometimes
my terrible strong-tailed body drags behind

Neighborhood post offices would be replaced by a counter in a big box store with a barely trained clerk. (Photo by Bruce Tuten under a Creative Commons license.)

Latest Plan to Privatize Post Office Hits Unexpected Obstacle

July 30, 2014 | By David Morris

The United States Postal Service (USPS) management just ran into a possible game-changing obstacle to its shameful pursuit of a fully privatized post office:  labor solidarity. 

Occupiers of Rome's Teatro Valle want to move Italy's cultural policies in the direction of the commons.

Commoners Continue to Occupy Rome’s Teatro Valle

July 28, 2014 | By David Bollier

The three-year occupation of Teatro Valle in Rome is now legendary: a spontaneous response to the failures of conventional government in supporting a venerated public theater, and the conversion of the theater into a commons by countless ordinary citizens. Now the mayor of Rome is threatening to end the occupation, evict the commoners, and privatize the management of the facility.

Davis, California, leads the nation in biking with its network of bike lanes, off-road bike trails and an increasing number of protected bike lanes. Twenty-two percent of all trips around town are by bike. (Photo by Thanh Ha Dang under a Creative Commons license.) 

One Surprising Reason America Lags Behind the World on Bikes

July 27, 2014

America lags behind most of the rest of the world when it comes to biking.  Even Canadians were found to bike three times more than Americans in a 2006 study

The dominance of the automobile in American life--especially the influence of auto interests in American business and politics--is no doubt the overwhelming reason. But a surprising contributing factor has been the resistance to special facilities to make biking safer by a small but dedicated band of bicyclists themselves.

Gas taxes don't cover the cost of building and repairing highways, not to mention the environmental pricetag. (Photo from flickr.com under a Creative Commons license.)

Republicans Wreck Their Own Principles on Highways

July 25, 2014 | By David Morris

It’s almost certain that Congressional Republicans will soon vote overwhelmingly to violate one of their most cherished guiding principles: A service should be paid for by those who use the service. If we don’t fully pay for services, Republicans usually insist, markets can’t work effectively.  This undervalues and overuses public services, resulting in wasteful overspending.

Image from Free Press Pics under a Creative Commons license.

Who Gets to Decide What a City Can Do with Broadband Internet?

July 22, 2014 | By David Morris

“(W)ithout power and independence, a town may contain good subjects, but it can have no active citizens.” That was the conclusion of Alexis de Tocqueville after touring a youthful American Republic in the early 1830s, as recorded in his classic Democracy in America. Today we are engaged in a renewed debate about the authority of governments closest to the people.

The Midtown Greenway in Minneapolis, a rail-trail that links to hundreds of miles of other trails and parkways throughout the region. (Photo by Micah Taylor under a Creative Commons license.)

Why Trails are America’s New Town Squares

July 15, 2014

Americans are people on the go!

It’s been that way since the early days of the Republic when white pioneers pushed past the Appalachians to settle the West (with unfortunate results for the native peoples already living there). The urge to move is part of our national character and greatly influences how we spend our leisure time.

Conservatives, progressives and everyone else likes farmers' markets, local food, mom-and-pop stores and other qualities of a thriving community. Can they all connect around the commons? (Photo of the Barberton, Ohio, Downtown Farmers Market by the Barberton Community Foundation under a Creative Commons license.)

The Conservative Case for a Commons Way of Life

July 15, 2014 | By Jay Walljasper

In the early-to-mid-20th Century the Distributists—led by English authors G.K. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc—took a dim view of both socialism and corporate capitalism. As conservatives they did, however, believe in private property--so much they thought it should be “distributed” as widely as possible among the whole population.

Judges appraise the quality of tap water from various US communities at the 133rd annual conference of the American Water Works Association.

Why Boston Brags About the Tastiest Tap Water in the US

July 14, 2014 | By Daniel Moss

The verdict is in: Don’t spend another penny on bottled water in Boston. That city, derided in the 1960s rock song “Dirty Water”, came out on top of the 2014, “Best of the Best” Tap Water Taste Test.

A chart from the Ecuador Transition Plan by Michel Bauwens.

Commons Thinking Offers a Road Map to Transform Society

July 14, 2014 | By Michael Bauwens

I was director of the FLOK research team, [which in late June finished up its work sponsored by the government of Ecuador to “fundamentally re-imagine” the country based on the principles of the commons]. Many people have asked about my assessment of the results of the process. The FLOK process was a complex process and the assessment can only be complex as well.

One of the first questions, and critiques, is about the relationship with the government itself.

Charity Hicks was at the forefront of many campaigns for justice, the environment and the commons.

Remembering Charity Hicks, Ardent Advocate of People's Right to Water

July 11, 2014

Charity Mahouna Hicks

Charity Hicks was an extraordinary Detroit activist, advocate, and movement weaver. A native Detroiter raised on the lower east side right off of the Detroit River which contributed to her love for the environment.