First in California lottery-based Citizen Advisory Panel
September 18, 2022 9:22 AM   Subscribe

Earlier this year, the City of Petaluma hired Healthy Democracy to put together a citizen panel via lottery to advise on uses of the Petaluma Fairgrounds (the lease expires December 31, 2023). The process chose a panel reflective of the diversity of the City, from a group of volunteers. Fascinating look at a more inclusive process for local decision making.
posted by agatha_magatha (8 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Neat! Remember when Vallejo (also SF bay area) went bankrupt? Well! They're out of bankruptcy these days, and now they do participatory budgeting.
Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a democratic process in which community members recommend to the City Council how to spend part of a public budget. It enables taxpayers to work with government to make the budget decisions that affect their lives. Developed first in Brazil in 1989, Participatory Budgeting is now practiced in over 1,500 cities around the world.

In 2012, the Vallejo City Council established the first city-wide PB process in the Unities States, where residents directly engaged with their local government to develop and recommend projects as part of the annual budget. Over the past five cycles, the City of Vallejo has allocated over $8.3 million to fund a total of 47 projects, while engaging over 20,000 residents of Vallejo.
More like this, please!
posted by aniola at 9:29 AM on September 18, 2022 [7 favorites]

Citizens Assemblies / panels are a really interesting idea. It's one of the demands of Extinction Rebellion. The important part, though, is that the government needs to listen to the Assembly. There was a citizen's assembly on climate in the UK. It made good recommendations but the UK government is largely ignoring them.
posted by rednikki at 9:54 AM on September 18, 2022 [4 favorites]

I’m very excited to see this. Younger Proust is a big fan of sortition, which this is an example of.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 12:06 PM on September 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Citizens Assemblies / panels are a really interesting . . . actuality, across the Irish Sea. In October 2016, 99 citizens + a chair convened to discuss important matters [abortion, fixed term parliaments, referendums, population ageing, and climate change - but not all at once!]. First off, they were instrumental in exposing the 1983 Eighth Amendment to the Constitution [which recognised the equal right to life of the pregnant woman and the unborn] to bright light scrutiny. The assembly was significantly more radical than expected and wrong-footed inherently conservative politicians; who eventually put the issue to the people in a 2018 referendum. We the people Repealed the Eighth 2/3 to 1/3, neatly reversing the ratio of 1983.

The Citizen's Assembly continues to meet; most recently on 10th September 2022 [7hr livestream] on the 4th meeting about directly elected mayors for Dublin. Ist meeting on biodiversity was on 14th May 2022. Go deliberative democracy!
posted by BobTheScientist at 1:46 PM on September 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 6:49 PM on September 18, 2022

Obligatory mention of The Tao of Democracy, which has inspired many such projects including Healthy Democracy's first one: review of ballot initiatives in Oregon.

Shout-out to the new Co-Intelligence Institute website as well.
posted by johnabbe at 6:03 PM on September 19, 2022

As a resident of Petaluma who's pretty active in civic affairs, I have two disappointments in the process.

The first, and big one, is that the proponents of the fairgrounds remaining in control of the current fair board really don't care what the population at large thinks. In my discussions with them I hear a lot of "well, I only want to hear from the right kind of people".

The second is that, by the account of everyone I've talked to who served on the advisory committees, there wasn't any discussion of trade-offs. It was all "what would you like to have happen here?" without any notions of how to fund it.

So I think it's largely been a failure. We're having the exact same discussions, with the exact same impracticalities and talking past each other, that we were having before the process. All the efforts to raise the hard questions, to balance competing needs, to really delve into who and how the management of the property has been serving, was all glossed over.

It's left us right back where we started, only with this rosy glow of doubling down on the things that have already left the property with $13M of unfunded maintenance liabilities.

I have seen good things about participatory budgeting in other places, so I think there are some good ideas that need further exploration, but I also think the mandate of the organization doing the process needs to be broadened to delve into more than just fluff.
posted by straw at 9:03 AM on September 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

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