Running for Office from the Commune

Posted on September 7, 2008 by

Author: Nick Licata
Published in Communities Magazine Issue #140

I opened my morning paper anxious to read the first article on my race for a position on Seattle’s City Council. I was living in PRAG House, an old mansion in the Capitol Hill neighborhood that a group of us had converted into a collective 25 years earlier.
Although I had not advertised living in a commune on my campaign literature, I did not hide from it either. In my interviews I explained that living in a co-op had taught me how to work with others in a collaborative manner. I then crossed my fingers and hoped that the reporter would not ask me about the name PRAG, which they inevitably did.
Yes I would tell reporters that the name PRAG was an acronym for Provisional Revolutionary Action Group. It came off the lips of one of the original members and did not stand for the People’s Revolutionary Action Group, which lacked the subtle tongue-incheek humor expressed in the word “provisional.” I would further explain that over time I think we had evolved more into something like Professionals Revolting Against Government; if they didn’t laugh, that was a bad sign.
That morning over 150,000 readers learned about PRAG House, and I took a deep breath wondering how the residents of West Seattle and other less hip neighborhoods than Capitol Hill would react. How would the electorate respond to someone who was living in a commune? The pleasant surprise was that there was barely a yawn.
There may have been a number of people who responded negatively to me about my living situation, but I don’t believe it was ever raised at a community meeting or political debate. Overall, I think that because I openly discussed it and pointed out the positive learning experience it provided me, living in a collective seemed like a reasonable housing alternative for anyone out there.

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