How to be a citizen activist; Nick Licata visits Orcas

Nick Licata served on the Seattle City Council for 18 years, and now he’s coming to the islands to share his political wisdom.

“If you do not participate in [politics] you have no power. You’re basically going to be at the mercy of those folks who are going to be involved,” Licata said. “It’s your choice whether you want to be active or you want to sit on the sidelines.”

Licata will be hosting a discussion about his book, “Becoming a Citizen Activist: Stories, Strategies, and Advice for Changing Our World,” at the Orcas Library on Tuesday, Feb. 13, at 5 p.m. The 225-page book was released two years ago, though Licata said he began writing it well before then, during his tenure as a council member.

“My mission is to give people hope that they can be empowered to gain some political control in their lives,” Licata said. “It does take some thought and some persistence, but it also takes some acknowledgment that it should also be something that is fun and educational.”

Licata grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Ohio’s Bowling Green State University. He then moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington, where he would achieve a master’s in sociology. For many years he lived in an anti-war commune in the city.

Along with his five terms spent on the city council that began in 1998, Licata has been active in a variety of community activism over the years. He Seattle in the 1970s, Licata founded Legs Against Arms — an anti-nuclear protest collective — and Citizens for More Important Things.

“It’s important to recognize our individual liberties and freedoms are guaranteed by our collective presentation. That only remains viable when each of us takes some responsibility to be a watchdog over government and participate as well,” Licata said. “For democracy to function, we have to allow an expression from all sides.”