We believe that government is not some abstract group of people making decisions for us, but rather the tool we all use to equitably (ideally) make decisions about our society. All to often, however people get disconnected from their government. Good communication is the key to bridging this gap. We have outlined some of our core strategies below, but would also love to hear your thoughts in the comments, or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Face to Face Interaction
There is this great system, in our democracy, where every Election District (neighborhood scale segment) has two representatives of the party who’s job it is to get to know their neighbors and organize locally. These 242 people (there are 121 EDs in Rensselaer County) make a lot of decisions about who runs for local office, but we believe that they should also be organizing in their neighborhoods throughout the year, and acting as a connection between their neighbors and their elected officials.
We use mailing lists (sign up at the very bottom of this page), SMS text messaging, social media, blogs, and other direct communication with citizens in Rensselaer County to keep them informed about upcoming elections, important government initiatives, and timely topics being discussed in their government on which they may want to express an opinion. We are also developing some ways in which ideas and opinions can be collected and used effectively in local government decision making (We are exploring Loomio, but are also interested in your thoughts and ideas in the comments).
Making Information Accessible
The first step in opening up government to the people is making information and data more accessible. The city of San Francisco is leading the way in this movement, and it is sparking all kinds of interesting innovations. From meeting minutes to building permits, to government budgets, we want government data to be accessible for review and use by the public.
Similarly, we don’t think the process for running for public office should be one that is obscured as much as it currently is. Most people that run for office right now do so because a friend of theirs is involved in a party and convinces, and enables them to do so. This creates a “political clique” (often called an “old boy’s network”), and even though most of these people have the best of intentions, they don’t know everyone, so we believe that opening up the process can only benefit all of us.
Finally, during elections, we think it is extremely important to make information about candidates’ ideas, goals, visions, and positions on issues available to the public. Because it is relatively easy to run for local offices in Rensselaer County based mostly on who you know, and personal interactions with voters, many candidates do not bother to publish clear platform statements online. We want to build an informed populace, so we will encourage candidates to publish information about why they are running on this site, and in the media.