Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Dumb... to fix bad practices, make them democratic instead of just eliminating them

DC Councilmember Tommy Wells announced via Twitter that he has decided to close down his "constituent services fund," usually funded by corporate donations as an ethics initiative.

Instead, he should have changed the fund's operations and engaged Ward 6 citizens as the organizers and appropriators of the funds, in a participatory budgeting initiative.

Out of similar concerns about ethics and to increase the opportunity for civic engagement and participatory democracy, some councilmembers in New York City and Chicago are using participatory budgeting processes in their districts to allocate funds under their control.

DC needs an example of increasing civic participation and funding opportunities for small, budget-pressed organizations, not elimination of such opportunities.

I am disappointed that CM Wells did not explore the greater variety of solutions that were at his disposal.

This is from a previous blog entry:

Participatory Democracy
My interest in planning derives from the fact that land use issues are those issues most likely to engage the average citizen in local civic affairs, and I believe that planning functions to engage citizens in the process.

But DC suffers from being the "local" city where the federal government is based, and I joke that "big" government trickles down and shapes "little" (local, DC) government in its image.

- Create a civic engagement element in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan covering substantive participation requirements in city activities including planning and budgeting
- Note that the Comp. Plan is the closest the city has to a "master plan" or "business plan" and it should be retitled accordingly
- Use participatory budgeting principles ("More on ethics: discretionary funding-constituent funds," "Missing the point on constituent service/discretionary funds available from legislators") in granting processes (and for constituent services funds for Councilmembers and the Mayor)

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