Democracy Tents


  • Our concept of a Democracy Tent grew from discussion groups at the Los Gatos Saratoga Recreation (LGSR) Adult Center in 2016. This Democracy Tent was formed in response to many Los Gatos residents believing that local governing bodies need to do more to address the important concerns of the electorate.
  • In 2017, a Democracy-At-Risk discussion group at the LGSR was joined by leaders of the local Los Gatos Community Alliance* who saw a similar need to give voice to ideas for dealing with several of the town and school districts’ chronic issues. They brought their experience as practitioners of local government affairs to shape the answer of how to practice democracy locally. The emerging model is an open forum that has included the Town’s mayor, prior mayors, vice mayor, council members, town management, the chamber of commerce, resident subject matter experts, and neighbor representatives in areas affected by proposed developments, as well as other stakeholders. Outreach to engage with the local school districts is planned for 2019.
  • In the Summer of 2018 we began to have the participation of residents from Saratoga, who were interested in propagating the Democracy Tent concept into Saratoga. This fit with the long range plan of the Democracy Tent founder, Rev. Chuck Rawlings, and the predecessor organization, Democracy at Risk. Chuck's concept was to demonstrate the value in Los Gatos, of a Democracy Tent, and once established, to propagate it to other cities within Santa Clara County.
  • Our intention is to give birth to the additional Democracy Tents. This requires buy-in from both the community and the city government.
  • The idea of a Democracy Tent recalls a period in American life when citizens gathered in community tents open on all sides to debate issues and hear voices like William Jennings Bryan and Theodore Roosevelt as they traveled the summer Chautauqua* circuit from town to town. Our tent seeks to revive that spirit and is open to all. It is issue-focused and intended to stimulate community engagement in living room, neighborhood, and town-wide forums. The Democracy Tent sponsor, LGSR, is an entirely fee-based program serving thousands of seniors, adults, and youth in Saratoga, Los Gatos and Monte Sereno.

* Los Gatos Community Alliance refers to an informal group of town activists who track development projects and report on such in one-on-one and group meetings, as well as on their website.

* Chautauqua refers to an adult education movement in the United States, highly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Chautauqua assemblies expanded and spread throughout rural America until the mid-1920s. The Chautauqua brought entertainment and culture to the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers, and specialists of the day.