An ongoing experiment: can our community’s collective brainpower help an idea become reality?
Alex Linsker has done a little bit of everything. He studied playwriting and business as an undergrad at NYU, did marketing for an online T.V. seller, created a software company, interviewed shoppers, and most recently, co-founded and acted as president of the democratic co-working space, Collective Agency in Portland, Oregon.
But one common theme threads his pursuits: the less he knows, the more he wants to do it. So when his time as Community Organizer of the Collective Agency was up, he turned to an issue he knew little about yet would affect any business choice he’d make: taxes.
“As a playwright, I really like figuring out what the false story is and finding what the true story is,” he says. “There’s a lot of mythology about how jobs are created. The truth is that a higher tax rate on people who are the richest grows jobs.”
Alex wants to introduce a progressive income tax in Oregon through a lobbying group called Tax and Conversation.
He envisions a diverse group that writes an Oregon constitutional amendment, acquires 100,000 signatures to get it on the ballot, and petitions people to vote. He also sees the group building community and promoting education about tax, government, and civics through workshops, meetups, and more. Similar to Collective Agency, the structure will be democratic with membership fees that go to representatives.
The hope of Tax and Conversation is two-fold: On a practical level, getting rid of tax breaks will mean more money for quality K-12 education, healthcare, and other basic services in Oregon. “There’s this scarcity mentality that’s been created and talked about in the news. But there’s more than enough to go around if we choose,” he says.
On a deeper level, Alex believes that a fair tax will help reduce income disparity and therefore generate more trust and empathy in society, a viewpoint he shares with the social researcher Richard Wilkinson.
Alex has been reading, networking, talking, and working with various people and groups such as Tax Fairness Oregon as much as he can. So far he’s created a website that includes a first draft of the amendment.
Here are some current challenges he’s facing:
- Alex finds that there is a general lack of awareness about how the tax system works and subsequently, myths about what government services our tax dollars go to.
- Communicating the value of the group can be tricky. Different people will read different things into the description.
- Some of the feedback he’s gotten from others is that it’s too big of a project given the scope, and they question whether or not will it make a difference.
How you can help
- Do you know of any organizations and/or community organizers he could partner with to help him reach people of all ages, races, incomes, etc.?
- How would you make the Tax and Conversation website even more relevant? What else do you want to learn about tax in Oregon and/or our government services?
- What are the benefits of a project like this?
- What issues and questions does it raise?
- What would motivate you to become a member? What would you need?
- What government services do you like, and what government services would you like to see improve?
- Civics education, which promoted the idea of citizens having an active role in solving problems in their communities, was phased out of schools in the late 60’s. What specific examples of civics education are you aware of? What kind of optional civics education for adults would you value?
- If you’re Oregon-based, would you like to get involved? (Alex is also open to support from outside the state.)
Leave a comment below or send him a message through Idealist and if the project progresses, we’ll keep you posted!
Do you have an idea that’s just starting to brew? If you’d like us to consider posting it as part of this series, email celeste [at] idealist [dot] org.