Blades is co-founder of Living Room Conversations, which organizes gatherings designed to increase understanding and reveal common ground.
Thought experiment: What if all the leaders in Washington decided tomorrow that climate change was the No. 1 issue to address? Evidence suggests this would not be as helpful as many people think. Consider health care, a No. 1 issue for decades. How does the U.S. health care system stack up? It is the most expensive in the world per capita and it isn't even in the top 10 in terms of outcomes. The fact is, importance isn't the determining variable for achieving success. We need to be able to work together.
Weaving the fabric of our democracy locally and nationally is a massive challenge. The people behind Living Room Conversations are meeting that challenge by offering an open-source project that can be used by mobile users at the beach as easily as in a living room or library.
Sometimes we worry that our name may confuse people. Living Room Conversations aren't limited by location, geography or time zone. They are happening every day in churches, libraries, schools, book stores, city community centers and virtual conference spaces. These six-person, structured conversations are designed to be self-directed, easily accessible, and welcoming to a broad array of perspectives. The structure includes conversation agreements that support comfort and safety.
Nominations are open until July 12 for the third annual American Civic Collaboration Awards, known as the Civvys.
The awards, established by the Bridge Alliance and Big Tent Nation in 2017, honor civic collaboration efforts that "strengthen communities and empower citizens" while bridging ideological divisions, partisan politics, narrow parochial interests and other gridlock-producing barriers.
Past winners have included a student-run public interest research group in North Carolina, a digital civics education effort in Colorado and a middle-school shadow city council in Alabama.
Awards will be given for national, local and youth projects. Entries will be judged on the collaborative practices involved, the impact of the project and its scalability – whether the effort can be replicated for greater impact. More information and a short nomination form can be found at www.civvys.org.
Plans for giving members of Congress the first salary increase in a decade blew up this week, and some "good government" advocates are sad about it. Why?
Congressional pay is among the most perennially fraught topics on Capitol Hill. House members and senators will always be delighted with bigger paychecks but don't want to be seen grabbing for them. Advocates for improving the functioning of Congress, thereby strengthening it in balance-of-powers fights with the president, argue that having the legislative branch spend more on itself is essential.
The House almost always takes the lead on deciding whether to accept an annual cost-of-living increase for all members. Despite bipartisan behind-the-scenes maneuvering designed to grease the wheels for a 3 percent raise in January, the Democratic leadership abandoned the idea when a bloc of their members cried out that they'd lose their seats as a consequence.
Beyond the political messiness, however, lie serious arguments for and against a boost in member pay. Here is a guide to the pros and cons central to the debate: