Capturing the New Spirit of the Campaign for Change in Orange County

Having been very active during the Primary and my wife very active during the General Election, we went to lots of victory parties!

The omnipresent question was "What now?"

I met Stan at such a party and, being of like mind and sense of making something happen, he and I decided to answer that question.  So, we met a couple of times and exchanged some email and phone calls and Stan wrote up a document explaining our ideas. 

Then we invited a group of people to my house to discuss the document.  This blog contains my thoughts from that meeting....

We had several of the "Crew Chiefs" from the Obama 'Campaign for Change' who were the folks that managed several precincts during the campaign.  We also had some folks who may not have had titles but worked their tails off most of the year toward the same goal.  (I don't want to post names here as I did not get permission for that). 

Ruby, from, was there as was the chair of the Democratic Party and a local elected official.

In all, ten people.

The bottom line: I think we have a pretty good idea of Who, Where and When, what is still unanswered is What and How.

Let me start by stating what I think I know:

1)  There is a "New Spirit" out there that Obama spoke of on election night.  People do want to get involved and help make change happen.  While there will always be those willing to just let it happen, there are spirited people who want to take charge of that change.  People also appear to want to make that change happen locally.

2)  This New Spirit comes with a new sense of Empowerment and Engagement.

3)  There is fear that both the Empowerment and Engagement will dissapate without giving it a focus.

4)  There are a few (and I think more than we may initially give credit) who are not going to give up on change just because the election is over and it now becomes more difficult.  There is a pocket of strong, intelligent, hard-working people who are committed to change.  For want of a better term, I'll call these people "activists".

5)  If we had a truly critical issue on the scale of the Campaign, we could probably mobilize many hundreds of people just starting from that core group of "activists", without the direction of "Campaign Field Staff" or political party; simply through the grass roots connections that we have made.  It could probably be done in very short order.

6)  Most people are only going to organize around issues or candidates for which they have a passion.  (For now, I'll call them Foot-soldiers).  Organizing around getting organized is really only for "activists" who are willing to march through the wilderness for awhile.  (like now!)

7)  We can move political mountains if the "activists" will assist the "foot soldiers" by directing them to very direct, meaningful, specific, measurable, easily accomplished tasks that require small commitments of time and effort.  Those tasks must match the peoples' passions.

8)  There is an "itch" to get involved, but the foot-soldiers need to be invited.  They will not come asking for work to do but they will respond to direct, meaningful, etc. requests for effort.  As long as their work matches their passions.

9)  There are many grass roots groups who are already organized around issues.

10)  Existing Grass Roots groups need to keep their own sense of identity.  There is actually value in "reinventing the wheel".  (Otherwise, why not have one mommy and one daddy and just have them raise all of the children!?)  We like having our own identity but we sometimes need to combine forces when it serves our purposes.

11)  The surrounding counties are looking to Durham and Orange counties to lead the way and give them a template to follow because they have the same New Spirit but lack the concentration of activism.

12)  Neither activist nor foot-soldier will stay involved without a social component.  All work and no play will disintegrate into drudgery.  If it were not for the people I've met during the campaign, I would not be writing this blog.  It is about all of us, together.

Ok, now let me wax a bit more philosphically:

Political campaigns and hotbutton issues are sexy and draw people in.  Especially when the candidate brings a fresh message of hope and change that we can relate to. 

People came into the Obama office to canvas after having read Daily KOs, watched Hardball and double-checked the tracking polls.  They were already involved when they came in our door for the first time. 

We no longer have that luxury; although, we do have new leadership and it is time for change. 

We now face the Hydra.  The myth of the Hydra is that of a multi-headed beast.  Cutting off one head caused two to grow back in it's place.  The Hydra was a nasty beast!  And it could not be killed.  Hercules finally had to hide one immortal head under a rock.  There will be no end to local political issues.  As soon as one is tackled, two more will emerge in its place.  There is no end point, the beast will not die.  There is no November 4th when we can truly celebrate a new day. 

Instead, there is another planning board, another long and boring council meeting to attend.  This is not sexy business, but if we are really committed to change, I think we have to battle the Hydra.  

I think the big question now is:  What do we do?   How we do it will fall into place when we know the what.

Ok, then, WHAT?

Maybe I see things too simply but there seem two approaches and both are necessary.

One, suggested by the elected official at our meeting, last night.  Start from the Comprehensive Plans, both County and Cities, and get an education on them and begin to engage people.  Understand the plans and make our voices heard so that we are working in cooperation with our elected officials.  Work to modify the plans where we see it takes our communities in what we feel are inappropriate directions.
Two, organize around fighting back on issues that are already brush fires or raging wild fires like the Airport or Transfer Station.

It really comes down to working on the same thing from opposite ends.  Involving ourselves in the issues that affect our community. 

A third point.  There are already "agents" out there.  People who already go to meetings, people who have read and understand the Comprehensive Plan, people know what is going on with specific issues. 

Is there somebody or some group that oversees these swarms of activity? 

Can I be more SPECIFIC?

Ok. Embracing Failure as I attempt to do!  What about a standing wine and cheese party where we meet once  a week or every other week and break into small groups where each group digests one small section of the 300 page Orange County Comprehensive Plan.

Then each small group would come back together in the big group at the end of the evening and report back what they found, what they like, what they feel needs attention, then we blog our results here?  We each get to digest a part of the plan that we have a passion about.  And we get the parts that we don't care about quite so deeply digested for us.

Perhaps, if see it is working, we invite the press to look in on what we are doing.  Or better yet, be involved in the process.

As we find things that we feel need changing, we take our discussions to the blog and once we find consensus (yeah, right!?), we take the next step.  We start the process of seeking out those who can instruct us on how to make some modifications.

It wouldn't have to be the same people every week, I've met many of people through the course of the campaign who might be interested in giving it a try.  It might take no time at all for us to get quite an education and quite a bit of community input right here at

Some would probably prefer to work on their own city Plans.  Great.  Same idea, or try your own. 

It is likely that infrastructure would begin to manifest organically from such a thing.  People would naturally organize around issues and needs.  And there would be some cohesion to the group.

I think we could make this process fun, interesting, meaningful.  And it would mutate where necessary or fall away if there is no interest. 

So, that's my first idea.  Be aware that lots of my ideas are flops, (ah, remember the Primary?) but I keep swinging.  What's yours?

Here is another idea.  Can we make a "Directory" of all of the local grass roots organizations?  With contact info, mission statements, web sites?  The ultimate idea being that we somehow become the glue that loosely binds them together. 

But not simply make a directory.  Go to their meetings, find out what they are about, know who is involved and in what way.  Become a clearinghouse of information and let them know that there is an umbrella that exerts no control but offers to plug them in to other groups who have common interests or needs.

Hopefully, this has sparked some ideas of your own.  Please comment.

Final Question:

The natural question is, where have I been all this time?

Well, I was feeling a little unempowered and disengaged.  Please don't hold it against me.

- Dave Tillery

P.S.  Ruby had mentioned using a key word to connect our blog messages.  I have used the words "New Spirit".



or just in the "new spirit" of the body?  *grin*To start off with, can anyone  point us to a brief version of the 300 page comprehensive plan?  If we want to solicit feedback in making changes to the plan, or solicit help in implementing it, having a more digestible working version of it would be immensely helpful.I also noticed the Obama-Biden Transition Project is no longer using the name "campaign for change".  Why could we not adopt it ourselves?Does anyone know if that would be an issue?   

There is no Reader's Digest version of the OCCP.  Those of us who struggled through a review of it never really felt like we had our arms around all of it.  The next big step will be the 12-month implementation plan development.  After the PD makes the corrections as approved the other night, the plan should be online and there should also be a schedule published of how the various boards plan to proceed.  18 Nov agenda item with proposed changes: OC site for the CP:

History shows that the three previous times there were huge numbers of student registered to vote in southern Orange that students mounted campaigns for town office the next year.In 1973, the year after the McGovern campaign saw about 7,500 students register, Pete Beswick (Carrboro) and me (Chapel Hill) were both 2Ls at Carolina Law, and both elected to the respective town board. The next massive student voter effort was 1990, when Gantt faced off against Helms the first time, and Mark Chilton, an undergrad, was elected to the Chapel Hill Town Council in 1991. The next high water mark was after the 2004 Kerry campaign, when Jason Baker, then a junior, ran an unsuccessful campaign in 2005 in Chapel Hill.  In 2008, it appears that student voter registration was probably 50% higher than any of those benchmarks.  Will we see student candidates again in 2009?

Why would anybody waste time on a comprehensive plan? Do they matter? After adoption are they used? Before you devour activists and foot-soldiers you might want to consider these questions.What do you want to change and why? Who wins, who loses (consequences)? Who can change things you want changed?Existential question: How did the University get to be in charge of the airport authority without anyone here knowing, and with the Speaker of the NC House our local representative?I think mobilizing activists and bringing them together is a great start. The Orange County Comprehensive Plan is a good way to go from start to stop, quickly.

I think the passing of the Airport Authority happening without people noticing is because people weren't paying attention to the process.

I think Dave Tillery has made an excellent point and that is to start engaging in the process. That is and was the success of Obama's campaign: engaging the people (the common person) and restoring power to the people.

If you are shocked that Hackney and gang passed this resolution, then voice your concern and note it in your memory bank for the next election.

Personally,I never forgot that our former Senator John Edwards voted for the Iraq war, and I never forgot how I was treated by his office when I voiced my concern. He lost my primary vote twice. I did not agree with Price supporting the bail out, but I got a response from him and an explanation as to why. I always get a positive response from Price's staff.

I was saw the recent Anti-Airport protest, and there were only a handful of people at best.Props to those who turned out to take a stand against the man, but those protesters were easily swept under the rug.

One of the many great things about living in the CH-Cboro area, is that we truly are a force to be reckoned with is the University, but we are always strong When we collectively take a stand. For the most part, our council members, alderman, mayors, and representatives do a great job listening to us and acting accordingly, but unlike a lot of towns with excellent local government, we have a powerful influential political force The University.

And the University wants an airport in Orange County.

So, what are You going to do? Sit back & let a few people from Preserve Rural Orange speak for you? Back down because the mayor calls you rude?

The key is also more than just engagement. Its taking a stand!

I was inspired by Obama's strategy, I was humbled and schooled by his method*non violent communication* it challenged me, and I struggle but continue to try to master that technique.

The airoort issue does not personally affect me. However, the principle does.

I would not ever lie down and let an establishment just take my land and house from me. I would fight a fair fight,and if I failed, most definitely my voice would be heard right up until the machines came and after.

As difficult as it may be to "get our arms around" the CP, that should never be an excuse to not continue to try. And I think the wine& cheese party is a great encouragement & excuse to try.

You can sign up this foot solider up!

I feel some dissonance in trying to connect my passion for electing Barack Obama to advocating for the comprehensive plan.  They don't directly relate very easily.I'm very interested in capitalizing on the engagement of the Campaign for Change. But you have to realize that people came to the movement because of a person (Obama).  It will be almost impossible to transfer that interest to any issue or set of issues. I think what I'm most interested in is how other politicians and leaders can emulate Obama's leadership and campaign strategy to engage people in some of the ways he has. 

I suggest you/we pick an issue that is important and then use the statements in the Comprehensive Plan (or task force report etc.) as a basis for pushing government officials to take action.

This is a great discussion, it is key to sustain the spirit for
change.  As Obama himself acknowledged during his election
night speech:

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end
on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek - it
is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen
if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

Obama needs help. --our help-- The 'transition team' is transitioning from the 'campaign for change.'  The campaign for change remains with us though.So what is the change that we are expecting to work with Obama towards?, ... what were the campaign promises that inspired so many people to make him our President?Mainly: a promise for change (with our help).Specifically: There are many areas where Obama has promised to take action.  There are intersections between what Obama has promised and what local organizations are aleady working towards.  A useful local action to sustain the spirit of change as invoked by the Obama campaign promises would be to facilitate relevant information to local organizations on the status of federal action toward accomplishing his promises.  This will serve not only to galvanize local organizations to support Obama in his initiatives (in the process we could inspire similar organizations in different locals throughout the country to do the same) but also, in this way, local organizations can prepare in laying the local groundwork for when action can be implemented locally as it is being facilitated federally.  For example, some promises with possible actions:

  • upcoming major economic stimulus package on major infrastructure: lets
    make sure our local rail system plan is ready to go!; green jobs
    initiatives have their heads up, etc..
  • [Obama] will promote
    regional food systems." I.D. local food initiatives, solicit local ideas/actions and lobby Obama to help us out.
  • Withdraw U.S. Troops from Iraq" I will begin to remove our troops from Iraq immediately. I will remove
    one or two brigades a month and get all of our combat troops out of
    Iraq within 16 months. The only troops I will keep in Iraq will perform
    the limited missions of protecting our diplomats and carrying out
    targeted strikes on al-Qaida."  In two months have organized local anti-war groups to celebrate on the street the first (of sixteen) deployment of U.S. troops from Iraq.
  • I am sure that there are Obama promises that intersect with the Orange County Comprehensive plan...

When our support for Obama fails in achieving our desired actions (as expressed through his campaign promises) we must express our disagreement, somehow express our discontent (already Obama has broken his promise to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans!) ... After all, we can be sure that Corporate America has the capacity to incessantly knock on Obama's door. 

I'm so glad I took the time to check the OP blog tonight, because this post really got my attention.  Dave, I have never met you but I found your description of this local effort to keep Obama momentum moving forward quite inspiring.  Towards the end you ask about local grass roots organizations and finding out what they are about, and you mention the clearinghouse idea.  I thought I would offer my perspective.  Aside from voting for Obama and canvassing once, I was not involved in the campaign and am not involved in local politics.  I know who my elected officials are, and I occasionally call them to express support for a particular bill, but I've never been to a town council or aldermen (I live in Carrboro) meeting, am not a member of a planning committee, and I don't know what the Comprehensive Plan is. I am, however, very involved at one local grass roots non-profit agency.  Domestic violence is the issue I am passionate about, and I have been involved with our local agency, Family Violence Prevention Center of Orange County (FVPC), since 2002.  I am now President of the Board of Directors, so at this point I have a solid understanding of the relationship between our agency, the community, and the local government(s).  FVPC has incredible support from our UNC student volunteers and from a small group of committed community volunteers.  We have a few local civic groups who do small projects for the agency and make regular financial contributions.  We also do receive town funding and appreciate the support and oversight that the town provides.  Beyond this, however, I can't say that I feel the presence of a large number of "activists" who are out there waiting to help FVPC as we work towards our mission of ending family violence in our community and as we do the day-to-day work of answering hotline calls and working with domestic violence victims who are seeking help and safety.  Part of the burden certainly lies with FVPC: we need to promote our work and gain the support of local activists and donors.  But I can't help but think that part of the burden lies with the community as well.  In a town as resource-rich as Chapel Hill, we should have thriving non-profits with innovative programs, intelligent and well-connected board members, and strong town-agency partnerships.  Some of our local non-profits have reached this level (and I want their former board members for my board!), and I applaud their success.  But keeping a small grass-roots agency going is hard work, and is even harder if the topic is the least bit controversial.  For non-profits that are not part of a large national umbrella organization (like Planned Parenthood), the ownership truly lies with the community.  Local individuals must step forward and serve on boards, volunteer their time, donate money, and stay informed about what these non-profits need to maintain and grow their operations.  I am so grateful to the members of our board and our volunteers who work on programs -- and I know that most of them have chosen FVPC because, like me, they have a commitment to or a personal connection with the issue of domestic violence.  I suspect that other non-profits attract volunteers who have similar cause-specific motivation.  It would be so amazing to see this other category of involvement - the activists who value civic engagement and who are motivated by the Obama  "New Spirit" you describe and "want to make change happen locally."  I would love to hear ideas for how to make this happen!  And I will mention one opportunity that Orange County has created for us.  Another post mentioned the recent meeting for Orange County non-profit Executive Directors.  A spin-off meeting is happening on Dec. 8 to discuss the idea of a non-profit alliance that would connect the local non-profits more formally.  I believe this meeting is only for the leadership (Executive Directors and senior staff members) of OC-funded non-profits, but I would be happy to post more details or suggest that a broader forum be held at a later date.Lastly, I loved your #12 above.  It is SO true that a social component must be present.  Attending finance committee meetings, trying to create a strategic plan, and fundraising are only meaningful (or bearable) if you can be in the company of like-minded people.  At the end of the day, these are days and hours of our lives that we are trading for these tasks, and even the greatest social justice gains are (sometimes) not motivation enough to get off the couch and go to yet another meeting.I hope we can continue the dialogue!  In the meantime, I will shamelessly promote the work of FVPC at, and encourage you to educate yourself about domestic violence, volunteer, donate, and/or give the hotline number to someone you know who may need our help. Caroline Wells Pence Carrboro, NC

If you guys do ever get those wine and cheese gatherings started, count this press-woman in.


Vanessa Shortley

News of Orange 

DianeWhat a great conversation. Thanks Dave for getting this on the table.Caroline, nice to visit with you again a la blog, and thanks for coming to the Carrboro Canvass! You made a difference. We won NC by 1/2 a vote per precinct so the overage had to come from counties like ours and Durham and it did ( A lot has been said ranging from the "hopeful" to "what can we really do"?What can we do with the" new spirit"? There are different responses as evidenced just in this blog.We won't answer all of these on a blog or in one meeting, but I invite you on behalf of OC3 to continue the conversation. Several of the Change Crew Chiefs from the Campaign along with other  activists have planned an organizing meeting to be held on Jan.28th at the Community Church of Chapel Hill, 106 Purefoy Road.Registration is at 6:30. Meeting from 7-9. You can sign up on under Events.Walk ins are welcome but space is limited.Bring a non perishable food item to be divided between the IFC Food Pantry and OCIM, both serve Orange County.We are not trying to duplicate the efforts of other grass roots groups or organizations.We know the success of the campaign was due to a terrific candidate who we believed would bring change and the great organization his campaign put on the ground. Our goal is to continue the organization and see where we can do the best work in our community by working with exisiting groups on shared issues.Below is a working Statement of Purpose:Orange County Campaign for Change (OC3) is a volunteer grassroots organization dedicated to loca, regional and global progress. We support initiatives which combine community and democratic ideals with direct action to meet the civic demands of all Orange County communities. Our foundational goal is to translate the enormous political chanage that has taken place on the state and national level into a local plan of action that will improve our communities and rebuild our state and nation by creating real and meaningful change on a human scale. OC3 accomplishes its goals through political education and community organizing that respects and empowers every resident of Orange County.Specific Goals include:

  • 1. Expanding voter registration and voter education.
  • 2. Organizing community building and community action projects.
  • 3. Working with elected political leaders to ensure accountability and transparency to the electorate.
  • 4. Organize active, collaborative support for President Obama's Plan to Renew America's Promise. 

Diane (or anyone) do you want to post this to the OP clendar, or should I do it for you?

I hope all Obama vols who have not previously been involved with the Orange Co. Democratic Party will get involved now. Precinct meetings, most of which will be held on 2/24 at the precinct polling place, will elect precinct officers and committee members, delegates to the county convention (third Saturday in April, place TBA) and consider any resolutions presented, which will be sent to the county convention. Precinct chairs and vice-chairs are voting members of the county party executive committee. This year's county convention will elect county officers, our county's members of the state executive committee, delegates to the 4th district convention (third Saturday in May, place TBA)  and adopt resolutions, which will be sent to the district convention (there will be no state convention this year).Any registered Democrat living in Orange County can participate. Some precinct meetings may not be held on 2/24, so check the party's website to be sure when yours will be held.We really need folks up here in the northern part of the county, especially young people.  Trying to form a group such as you are doing is important and I commend you, but don't forget the party of which Obama is the leader. 

Anyone who is registered as an "independent" can vote in the primary of their choice - either Democrat or Republican (call Joe Lieberman if you are confused).In other words, you give up none of your electoral power by "declaring your independence".

Lieberman established his own party "Connecticut for Lieberman" and is not actually an "independent"

...but only registered Democrats can vote at precinct meetings or hold any party office.


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