At the last council meeting The Mayor actually said “we’re getting really good at public consultation”. If there is anything that “they” are getting good at it is greatly restricting any public participation while “marketing” their pre-determined positions under the guise of civic involvement. To the Gang-of-Six “accountability” and “transparency” are nothing more than buzz words inserted into their election platform. Quickly discarded when decisions regarding money start up. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, once said, “Civic Engagement is a device whereby public officials induce non-public individuals to act in a way the public officials desire.” Here in Aurora that couldn’t be closer to the truth. There’s a fantastic piece on this blog titled “Astro-Turf Protesters and Fake Town Halls” :
http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/blog/pete-peterson/astro-turf-protesters-and-fake-town-halls Emphasized is the difference between an “information session” and a “town hall meeting”, and how governments fail by confusing or misrepresenting one for the other. The same blog has another fantastic peice called “The Changing Face of Local Governance”
http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/blog/pete-peterson/the-changing-face-local-governance. It argues that seeking the input of the fully informed citizen has never been more important and delves into how social media is demanding a more participatory role in governance, and how some governments are getting on board. One wonders what could have been done with real leadership at our Aurora Council? Instead of the technicaly inept and backwards thinkers that we have now. What are others doing you ask? Well it looks like a lot! The US Governmentreleased an “Open Government Directive” you can read it in full here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/assets/memoranda_2010/m10-06.pdf The following snippet sums up the objective nicely:
The three principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration form the cornerstone of an open government.
Transparency promotes accountability by providing the public with information about what the Government is doing.
Participation allows members of the public to contribute ideas and expertise so that their government can make policies with the benefit of information that is widely dispersed in society. Collaboration improves the effectiveness of Government by encouraging partnerships and cooperation within the Federal Government, across levels of government, and between the Government and private institutions.
With this in place the US Governement wasted little time in constructing OpenGov Tracker:
http://www.opengovtracker.com/ A feature rich website used to solicit citizen’s ideas on how to make government more transparent, participatory, collaborative and innovative.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/30/AR2009063001370.html?hpid=moreheadlines The Whitehouse actually employs a “Director of Citizen Participation”.
With all the bureaucratic expansion and fancy title changes to staff that mean nothing. This is one position that would not be amiss in the town of Aurora. Civic Participation for the iPhone: http://www.nextmedia-source.com/frame.php?id=1823734 Currently only functioning in California the “DIY Democracy” application is a location enabled app that connects users with all the various levels of government. It offers a glimpse of what is comming. So if that is south of the border, what is happening closer to home? The Star has recruited 30 bloggers to ignite a debate ahead of election day, Oct. 25, about how to make the city great:
http://www.thestar.com/yourcitymycity/article/775172–build-a-better-city?bn=1 Twitter fans pitch vision for Toronto by assembling to pitch their alternative vision for how to make Toronto better:
http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/torontomayoralrace/article/764296–twitter-fans-pitch-vision-for-toronto-succinctly People were turned away before the event began because it had exceeded the 200-person capacity. What efforts are we making in Aurora on public consultation? Yeah right I thought so, none. There is no shortage of reference material and research on the subject. Perhaps some of our impersonal and downright ignorant members of council should review the following: Clay Shirky, author of “Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations”
The book is less a roadmap, and more of a GPS for the future of public consultation. Participatory Governance: Planning, Conflict Mediation and Public-Decision Making in Civil Society
http://www.yorku.ca/hdrnet/images/uploaded/Decentralization%20and%20Participatory%20Governance%5B1%5D.ppt The presentation reinforces the need to break with the Legal-Rational system of top down bureaucratic administration referred to as the “soulless steel cage” Another fantastic blog I stumbled upon had an article titled “Commentary: Deficits Create Surpluses in Democracy in Local Government”:
http://www.noozhawk.com/noozhawk/article/0107_commentary_deficits_create_surpluses_in_democracy_in_local_government It asserts:
Looks like the only way to achieve that here in Aurora is through the only participatory option extended to us by this government: voting.
Local government leaders are realizing it makes more sense to involve their citizenry in the process from the beginning — to avoid having to deal with criticism after the fact, or even having to undo decisions and start all over again.The challenge is how to encourage citizen participation in a way that constructively contributes to the decision-making process, and isn’t just viewed as an irritation — or worse — by local officials, nor a lobbying effort by residents.