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Power to the People: One Web 2.0 user at a time

Mayoral candidate Josh Wolf
Photo by Luke Thomas

By Josh Wolf

October 23, 2007

It's time for a new democracy.

Politicians buy and sell their influence like commodities on the stock market. Back-room deals and empty rhetoric dominate government, and it is the everyday people, people like you and me, who suffer. It's time to open up government and create a participatory democracy that empowers every man, woman, and child, to have an active voice in the planning of our city's future.

Presently, there is no real way to enter a conversation with our officials. Speaking at public comment is like talking to a wall, and trying to meet with elected representatives can be an exhaustive process that is unlikely to deliver results. Even the mayor refuses to participate in question time, obfuscating his responsibility to be held accountable by the electorate for the city's most pressing issues.

We all know that we can do better.

It simply wasn't possible to create a direct democracy when our country was founded. But with the advent of the Internet and Web 2.0, we can begin moving toward a true democracy. I'm proposing we revive San Francisco's historic community congress, and bring it up to date. I'm calling it SFdemocracy.net, and it is a subset of what we're calling the New Democracy Network, which seeks to bring direct democracy and empower people at both the local and national level.

The idea is simple: every single issue that goes before our government should have it's own node - it's own web page - that allows for people to add their voice, to propose alternatives to the solutions already on the table, and take part in straw polls to get a feel for where the people stand. Community groups and individuals would also have an opportunity to add their issues, and we can work with new and existing neighborhood groups to ensure each community is given an opportunity to publicize their meetings and interact with the site in a way that continues to foster face-to-face organization.

Beyond organizing, and building consensus, SFDemocracy.net is also focused on providing the means to access existing government content (documents, video clips of city meetings, etc.) and to use excerpts from these materials to build and bolster arguments and discussions.

There is no reason why government meetings are not streamed live online, nor is there any rationale for why these videos are not made available immediately following each meeting. SFDemocracy.net seeks to build a tool that will allow users to clip video content without the need for technical proficiency, or additional software.

San Francisco is a mecca for the web and the birthplace of Web 2.0, and it's a damn shame that our city's web home doesn't allow you the opportunity to take part in shaping our city's future. We must tap the collective wisdom of all 750,000 brilliant people that make up San Francisco. If we can work together, we will find the best solutions for all of the issues, and we will build a real democracy.



Editor's Note: Views expressed by columnists published on FogCityJournal.com are not necessarily the views or beliefs of Fog City Journal. Fog City Journal supports free speech in all its varied forms and provides a forum for a complete spectrum of viewpoints.



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