Put yourself on the team drafting a new charter for the city's grassroots governance level, the community boards. Read, research, discuss, think, and contribute to this BeyondVoting Wiki. (See About BeyondVoting for editing, governance, and other wiki operational information.)
As the city's grassroots governance level, revitalized and empowered community boards could provide residents with an expanded opportunity to actively participate in a governance process that shapes their communities and their lives.
But while the city charter assigns to each community board the broad responsibility to "Consider the needs of the district which it serves," it limits their effectiveness by making every opinion advisory. And with community districts being media ghettos and operating with miniscule budgets and archaic technology, too many residents conclude that the boards have little impact on their communities or their lives. (For a broad picture of how we currently govern ourselves in New York City, see NYC Governance.)
BeyondVoting believes that ideas on civic improvement are common and that the better the system to uncover, present, evaluate, prioritize, and actualize them, the better the city will be.
BeyondVoting explores ways new communication, collaboration, and coordination systems might help the boards extract, process, and implement ideas, transforming them into a more effective branch of city government.
To review 32 suggestions for change to the city's governance structures and processes, see Opportunities for Change. And remember, this is a wiki, so add suggestions, ask questions, make observations...
According to the late Tony Dapolito, civic leader and longtime chair of Manhattan Community Board 2, prior to the boards’ creation in 1975 civic associations took on many of the tasks now assumed by the boards. Community improvements were citizen based, with ad hoc relationships the rule of the day. With the creation of community boards, civic activity was funneled through imperfect formal structures.
Once board websites provide for improved transparency, communication, collaboration, and decision support, civic organizations (ad hoc and permanent) might once again assume a more activist role, as today’s dependence on the boards diminishes.
To achieve this, the boards' ability to empower block and civic organizations should be highlighted, its arsenal of planning and organizing tools expanded, and its ability to train residents with communication and organizing tools strengthened. And, working with public schools, libraries, and telecommunications providers, the boards should work to eliminate social, economic, and geographic digital divides.
With improved local communication, residents will see how their interests relate to those of their neighbors, and a new sense of individual and community empowerment will arise. And as accountability improves, elected representatives will become better aware of their constituents desires.
Additional changes will arise as various city entities - mayor, council, borough presidents, public advocate, etc. - modify their operation. And with the BeyondVoting proposals having an impact on a political process, one must focus on "winners" and "loosers." For a discussion of the Impact on Exisitng Institutions of these changes, see the review here.
The Game PlanEdit
The "Plan" has two parts: the talk talk talk which takes place here on the BeyondVoting Wiki, and the on-the-ground actions that result from our explorations, deliberations, and decisions.
The BeyondVoting WikiEdit
The wiki needs to be improved and maintained.
- First - The New Tools of Democracy section must be further developed and maintained. We need more links to the classics (Plato, Hume...) and detailed reports on what "New Tools" are finding success elsewhere.
- Second - We must evaluate "New Tools" that have proved successful elsewhere and determine if and how we might test them here.
- Third - The impact of the proposed changes on various positions and institutions must be analysed.
- Finally - Governance of the BeyondVoting Wiki must be codified. Discussions must be organized and voting processes established: who votes and how? See the discussion on this here.
After we've agreed - or feel we're close to agreeing - on a new community governance infrastructure, the next step is to engage with the public and then our government to implement these plans.
How long might this take? The women's suffrage effort took at least 72 years. Hopefully this will be far shorter. Complicating this is the ever changing technology which enabled the effort. But whatever the length, certain steps need to be taken.
- Develop an implementation plan.
- Join with like-minded efforts to improve the effectiveness of city governance. A closely related effort by the Community-Based Planning Task Force recently produced a Livable Neighborhoods report that parallels the wiki's goals in many respects.
- Select or initiate a lead organization to promote the plan.
- Put community governance on the public agenda.
- Convince the public and government that something BeyondVoting is worth pursuing.
- Work the plan.
Words of Caution Edit
While BeyondVoting seeks new techniques for soliciting ideas, facilitating collaboration, and engaging the public in governance -- words of caution are appropriate.
- Quality v. Quantity - While many new e-governance techniques have been proposed, some will enhance effective governance and others prove as desirable as a democratic lynch-mob. Any proposals presented require a method for assessing accountability. What scale is appropriate for a test? How do we assure the evaluation process isn't gamed? What do we measure? How do we measure? Who measures?
- Essential Access - The governance process can't move online without a parallel commitment to provide online access to all residents. A new universal service standard must be established and funded.
- Perfection? - This technology provides the gist for a Orwellian future. In seeking societal controls, we must show due considersation to privacy and other traditional human values.
All of these articles have saved me a lot of hedaaches.