Defending the Commons

I call myself a “Public Defender” because the very concept of “public” is under threat in America and in my home city, Chicago. Somehow the notion of “public” has become a dirty word and has been de-valued. Oddly, as “public school” teachers have become demonized and public services slashed we see the private sector greedily lusting after our public assets for private monetization. We need MORE public, not less.

Hands Off LucasI spoke out against the University of Chicago Land Grab for the Obama Library and the George Lucas Museum in Grant Park.

Read testimony before the Chicago Park District on these two issues: Tresser Remarks on UofC Obama Library sitingTresser Remarks on Lucas Museum siting – Listen to this two minute clip of my remarks regarding the Obama Library.

Read coverage of the Lucas Museum public meeting from September 29, 2015.
Tom at Lucas Museum hearing+text+logo






This seven minute video lays out my point of view.

All About Privatization from Thomas Tresser

Extending the public sphere is part of an even larger fight to protect and extend the Commons. What is the Commons? It is the sum total of all that we share. It is stuff and concepts. It is nature and it is culture. It is public education and public parks. It is our air, water and environment. Think of what no one can own – what no one SHOULD own. Think of what we are stewards of – what we are keeping in trust for our children and great grandchildren. That is the Commons. Download the 560 page “Vocabulary of the Commons” from The Foundation for Ecological Security, India.

Here’s a great web site with many essays and resources on the commons –

Grab a chapter of a great resource, “All That We Share” by former UTNE Magazine Editor, Jay Walljasper – Download the chapter as a PDF.

David Bollier is a major thinker and educator around issues of the commons.

Here’s a nifty video that helps explain the commons:

Here’s a three minute definition in song form by Portland musician, David Rovics.

Over the past four years I’ve devoted most of my civic work to defending the commons from rip-offs, encroachments, sell-offs and privatization deals from corrupt local government.

  • In 2008 I was a co-founder of Protect Our Parks which stopped the privatization of part of Lincoln Park, defeating the Latin School Land Grab.
  • In 2009 I was one  of the organizers for No Games Chicago, an all-volunteer coalition of activists and concerned citizens from across the city who worked to stop the 2016 Olympics from bankrupting the city and destroying priceless public parks.

  • In 2010 I was the Green Party candidate for Cook County Board President and ran on a platform of reform, innovation and social justice. One of my positions was to work for the abolition of Tax Increment Finance Districts in Cook County. I established a separate web site to explain how these billion dollar rip-offs work.
  • Over the past few years I’ve written and spoken extensively on the need to monitor and stop the push to privatize public space, services and assets. Here is a presentation I gave at the Chicago HQ of the Service Employees International Union on June 23, 2012.
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