Wednesday, September 05, 2007

On neighborhoods again

Hillary raised some valid points with regard to my endorsement of getting neighborhoods more involved in the budgeting process. While I sympathize with her pointing out that we, you know, have a representative government already which is supposed to do these things, I would counter by suggesting that this level of involvement isn't threatening to turn us into a direct democracy. If anything, it lets neighborhoods determine what projects are most important to them and enable their elected officials to focus on other, larger projects.

Any extensive overhaul like this will, understandably, require a significant period of time spent mobalizing and organizing the neighborhoods in our community to make sure they all have a shot at the table. Thanks to strong organizations like the Federation of Neighborhoods and the work of the Athens-Clarke County Planning Department, I see this as something quite feasible.

There are questions and considerations that must be addressed, but we're in the beginning stages here. Ultimately, I still think this is a very good idea.

1 Comments:

Anonymous dave_in_athens said...

JMac - just writing to say I have concerns about this proposal as well. You indicate success will be tethered to mobilizing and organizing neighborhoods that don't already have such an infrastructure in place. What is not acknowledged are the countless failed attempts to do exactly that taking place over the years. Historically, it's EXTREMELY difficult to organize, let alone maintain participation in any type of neighborhood-centered organization. How many times have we rallied around this mantra for the cause du'jour? Yet we continue to have an absence of organized participation in government from most communities within Athens (particularly poor/historically black neighborhoods).

If these neighborhoods are not participating in the Poverty Initiative (per the ongoing discussion) why would we think there will be mass participation THIS time?

As the bumper sticker says, "the world is run by those who show up." This is particularly true in Clarke county. One need only attend regular meetings of any policy-type govt. or extra-govt. committee to realize it's the same group of well-meaning folks time and time again. So our guiding principals are set consistently by the same group of individuals. I know they would embrace broader participation from the community, but it just doesn't happen - and it won't. Your average citizen doesn't take interest in the process - not saying it's right, that's just how it is.

You mention the Federation of Neighborhoods - perfect example. The Federation meets diligently each month, and I enjoy participating in their group. One need only attend a few meetings to realize it's the same core group of 10-15 folks, month in and out without much variety in membership. They are always trying to grow the group beyond the handful of regular participants, but it is hard to sustain.

The point I'm trying to make - I'm uneasy about changing the way we budget based on the "concept" of increased participation. We know how difficult it will be to GET said participation from a truly representative slice of the Athens population. Therefore, these decisions could wind up being made by the same group of policy-junkies that currently participate regularly. My fear is this could lead directly to more of the single-issue thinking/decision making that has impeded our ability to serve the broadest population possible. Is this enough incentive to change our present representative system? Not for me, at least as it stands.

5:13 PM  

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