Old Ladies in Tennis Shoes

In this political season, Tip O’Neill’s observation that all politics are local struck me when I received an email last night alerting me and about 50 other neighbors to a developer’s efforts to build condominiums on a small lot in our quaint Cape Cod village.

The impact of email on local activism has been huge in the last year, with calls to arms being issued for opposition to piers in the crowded bay, a proposed wind farm in the center of Nantucket Sound, and other issues, which in years past, would have required phoning, petitions, and public meetings where the opposing side would have had little, if any, concerted strategy.

The availability of online petition services such as icount and ipetitions is a tool for local activists has the potential to transform the red-faced shouting of town meetings and other anachronisms of New England democracy into a much smoother process. For Wal-Mart haters, the tools are powerful – the issue is whether local officials and regulators will give them any credence.