Ctrl-Alt-Del: Rebooting Democracy

By Tara Sulzen and Nolan Lienhart of Portland, Oregon. Tara is a board member and Nolan is the board chair of the Bus Project.


After a year of frustrations and hard-fought victories, we in the public interest movement have learned this simple truth: to make any progress, we have to perpetually revitalize, remake and renew our efforts to meet our new challenges. Much as we'd like to, we just can't relax.

With that in mind, nearly 400 of Oregon’s most energized students, community organizers and advocates joined last weekend with elected officials, candidates and business leaders for the 2010 Rebooting Democracy conference. The conference, organized by volunteers and staff from the Bus Project, brought together a diverse group of people to talk about improving the future of our state through hands-on democracy. Thanks to the passion, commitment, and energy of conference organizers, volunteers and attendees, Rebooting Democracy was bigger and better than ever before.

We heard from five engaging (and at times, challenging) keynote speakers, including Heather Smith, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Dave Frohnmayer, Larry Lessig, and our own Congressman Earl Blumenauer. In an example of the collaborative nature of the conference, Lessig reworked his Saturday night presentation (watch the video) in response to ideas delivered by Rev. Yearwood on Friday night.

But the greatest value came from the hundreds of attendees who will take the energy from the conference and use it to power hands-on democracy in the new decade. Attendees represented communities from all across Oregon: water activists from the Klamath River Basin and equal rights activists from Portland; business leaders from Eugene and community leaders from the Warm Springs Tribe; high school students who have yet to cast a ballot and political veterans who've appeared on countless ballots. This truly was a cross-generational, cross-community conference, and we believe that the future of the public interest in Oregon is immeasurably stronger because of it.

It’s hard to say whether what happened was a conference, a summit, a meeting, or a party. The intimate Riverhouse Conference Center provided space and time for listening, learning, dialogue and building relationships between organizations and individuals.

We actively engaged in over 40 different workshops, panel discussions and presentations. Despite the full buffet of issues on the menu, conference attendees were united in the belief that through partnership, we are a stronger progressive coalition, capable of leading a new decade of innovation in our state.

In addition to the listening, thinking and strategizing, we focused tangible energy around the the full slate of Shovel-Ready Policies presented at the conference, ensuring that we will carry the energy generated at the event through the next two years. All in all, we pledged over 778 volunteer hours towards the full slate of policies, including the contest winners: Farm to School and Voter Registration Modernization.

We look forward to working with our fellow conference attendees on many of these Shovel-Ready Policies, on electing new progressives to local and state offices, and on recruiting an even broader, more diverse group of people towards these objectives.

Rebooting Democracy 2010 was a great event, and it is a harbinger of a great year for Oregon.

  • Christy Splitt (unverified)

    Thanks, Nolan and Tara, for this post... I wish that everyone could have seen the energy of Rebooting Democracy. It was a great conference - I am happy that I was able to attend, I learned a great deal, and I am thrilled to work with the Bus and conference attendees on some stellar legislation. Oh, and I also had a lot of fun (Oregon Idol being perhaps the funniest panel I have seen...ever).

  • dave (unverified)

    Democracy? You mean like forced health insurance? Funding bike riders first? Spending more than your wildest budgets?

    Democracy is long gone in this state. If you mean the public class continuing to vote themselves money from the private sector, then yes, we will continue to see lots of that in the future.

  • JonB (unverified)

    It was a great event! The Bus did a wonderful job. And I am pleased that the two issues that OSPIRG brought forth did as well as they did in the Shovel Ready Policy Contest. We look forward to working with you on Voter Registration Modernization, and I am glad that so many people got to understand the need for reforming our tax expenditures in Oregon.

    I have to say I was a bit surprised when "Tax Subsidy Transparency and Reform" was one of the final six policies. Pleasantly surprised. I was afraid it was a bit wonky, but I certainly should never underestimate the caliber of the attendees of Rebooting Democracy.

    Kudos again!

  • James (unverified)

    Awesome event, really informative, really open. Heck they would have even given our friend Dave space to talk (But of course he'd rather troll and listen to ol'Rush then actual engage with other people!)

    A really diverse set of speakers from the Rev. Yearwood to David Frohnmayer, great panels, good people.

    Thanks Bus Project for making this happen.

  • Jake Oken-Berg (unverified)

    I attended the 3-day conference (as the photo shows) and it was awesome. It was the perfect mix of policy, meaningful conversations, speakers and fun. A big thanks to all the Bus Project staff, volunteers, attendees and speakers.

  • Davis (unverified)

    The Bus put on another exciting, engaging and well thought out event. The turn out was positive and the networking was priceless. Thank you Bus Project, keep doing what your doing.

  • Alisa Anderson (unverified)

    Reboot? How about recycle, taking care to remove the toxic elements, and start with something fit to purpose. "American Democracy" is like "National Socialism". We aren't and they weren't.

    "Corruptocracy" isn't a form of government, tho you would never know it by its popularity in the Americas. Simple non-parliamentary democracy is as outdated as converting the Navy to steam power. It was a great idea once, and that was a long time ago. Is it that the founding fathers were uber intelligent ETs? How does their physiology stack up today? Cosmology? Archeology? History? Nutrition? Education? Prisons? Mental Health? But, you know what? They got the science of how to run a government so right, that more than 200 years later, no fundamental adjustments are needed!!! What genius.

    If everyone else is wrong, and we are right, why doesn't it work as well as what they're doing? Are we just less capable across the board? Anyone that denies we need a Constitutional Congress doesn't understand or is consciously promoting the fraud. I challenge anyone to put forward a cogent argument to the contrary.

    <h2>Alisa in Tillamook (sorry, admin, I got my email wrong...on the post where I was saying to delete postings with bogus emails)</h2>
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