Power to the People: One Web 2.0 user at a time
Mayoral candidate Josh Wolf
Photo by Luke
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
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.