We as citizens of the United States observe politics from afar and the vast majority of us may participate in the political process only to the extent that we go to the polls once a year to vote. We may endeavor to follow the news accounts of our nation's politics as they unfold, and of the consequences those political actions yield, but we have little power to influence our "democratically" elected officials. Perhaps we write an occasional letter to our senator or representative, but we almost inevitably receive a vague and impersonal response explaining why they will vote in our opposition.

Over the decades, our representative democracy has been systematically undermined and has ultimately failed in preserving the well being of the people of this nation. The system that the founding fathers painstakingly devised in order to best serve the interests and the will of the people has been corrupted and the systems of checks and balances on power that they instituted have been stripped away. Most of us accept this reality as being beyond our control and continue to observe, comment, and complain without aspiring to achieving any real change, without any hope of instituting a new system of governance that would instead take directly into account your views, and the views of your neighbors, and would empower you to make real positive change possible in your communities.

This site will attempt to explore in depth the places in the world where people are successfully bringing about that type of change in the face of similar odds, where an alternate form of democracy, which is called participatory or direct democracy, is taking root. Initiative, referendum & recall, community councils, and grassroots organizing are but a few ways in which direct/participatory democracy is achieving great success around the world.

Our system of representative democracy does not admit the voice of the people into congressional halls, the high courts, or the oval office where our rights and our liberties are being sold out from underneath us. Our local leaders and activists in our communities, and even those local elected officials who may have the best of intentions are for the most part powerless to make real positive change happen in our neighborhoods, towns and villages when there is so much corruption from above.

In places like Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, India, and the Phillipines, new experiments in grass roots community based governance are taking place. There is much to be learned from these and other examples of participatory democracy from around the world when we try to examine how this grass-roots based governance could begin to take root here in our own country in order to alter our political system so that it might better serve the American people.

In the hope that one day we can become a nation working together as a united people practicing true democracy as true equals, we open this forum…


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

UK: Community to Imitate Brazilian Participatory Budgeting


Friday, September 26, 2008, 18:33

VOTERS have returned Devonport Regeneration Community Partnership chairman Marc Gardiner to the organisation's board – where he will be joined by a new face.

And newcomer Tony Burton has already set targets: jobs and trees.

"I'm very flattered the people of Devonport have voted me into a position of trust, and I hope not to fail them," he said.

"My main interest is jobs. Given the economic downturn I'd like to see a lot of effort put into providing employment."

And trees?

More trees," he said. "For the aesthetics of Devonport. Years ago there were areas of Victorian houses with trees. They look nice and provide more oxygen."

Mr Burton lived in Devonport 18 years ago, but left for Beacon Park after suffering daily abuse and intimidation.

But now he's back and said Devonport has 'completely changed'.

"It's a wonderful, caring community," he said. "And I plan to keep it that way."
Mr Burton, who works in plumbing and home improvements, was voted in alongside Mr Gardiner, a board member since 2002, and Roger Wills and Anne Freeman, both re-elected.

Garry Edwards and Agnes Reynolds failed to be elected.

The election was the last for resident board members before the New Deal for Communities organisation, set up with £48.73million of public cash to regenerate the area, is wound up in 2011 at the end of its 10-year lifespan.

If any board vacancies occur from now on they will be filled with appointees.

Mr Gardiner said the board had the important job of seeing the project through to 'a satisfactory conclusion' and establishing a successor organisation.

And he also wants to use the final years to 'empower' locals to use their 'voice' en masse.

He said this could be done via 'participatory budgeting' an idea imported from Brazil.

"It's an example of direct democracy," he said.

Participatory budgeting would mean setting aside a fraction of the NDC's cash, allowing people to bid for it and present ideas, and then letting the populace to decide which to run with.

"I'd like to see DRC Partnership pilot that for the city," he said.

Miss Freeman was delighted to have the opportunity to see the regeneration project through, and wants to concentrate on promoting education and training.

She stressed: "It's not just about bricks and mortar, you have to regenerate the people and provide opportunities for them."

And Mr Wills said: "Education was my banner the first time I stood, and I stick by that."

He has lived in Devonport since 1976 and remembers times when it was like 'Beirut' – but not now.

"The regeneration that's going on is wonderful," he said.

The election's 17.91 per cent turn-out was down on the 25.73 per cent of eligible Devonport residents who voted last year and the 25.84 in 2005.

But spokeswoman Lynda Harris said the DRC Partnership was 'delighted' with the figure.

"Some NDCs have stopped elections," she said. "The fact that people are still turning out and wanting to vote says a lot."

1 comment:

Unknown said...

When commentators with very different political views converge in their dismissal of civil society as of little value for democracy, it is worth looking at what lies behind their consensus. The US government as the main hope for democracy, although he is critical of some of its policies.
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