"Democracy in action"

Last week, Meg Dickinson got the public wondering about a mysterious person who urged some board members to support one of their own as president. I don’t know how many hits the NG article got, but my own post had over 300 hits, which is on the high end for me. I also had a number of folks contact me privately asking questions and opining thoughts.

This morning, Jim Dey has an editorial (not online as of this writing). I do not always agree with Mr. Dey, but he does make a very convincing point; why all the secrecy? I have quoted one of his statements as the topic for this blog because I think, in general, most of us do not even know what democracy looks like. We have too few role models to follow that can show us what being participatory is all about. Having said that, pointing fingers is not helpful at all, either. All the people mentioned in the editorial have stories to tell. Perhaps they don’t want to tell the NG – and for that I do not fault them. It is frustrating when you want to tell a story, only to have it rehashed at the whim of someone else. Also, I have heard that the “requests for comment” was a bit of s stretch, says those who are “reticent.”

So here is my Monday morning challenge; show me more democracy in action. What does it look like when taxpayers and voters are involved, informed, educated and given a space to deliberate? What does it look like when elected officials are not cagey with knowledge? What does it look like when the newspaper editor talks to all the people involved? What does it look like when a thousand people are letting board members know what they think?

Show me what democracy is.


UPDATE: Editorial now online (no comments, yet?!?)


5 Responses to “"Democracy in action"”

  1. pattsi Says:

    Why ask others to describe what democracy is? Why not include some outstanding examples in your post to generate the conversation of possibilities–is it possible to attain what you deem as “best practice”? If not, why

  2. pattsi Says:

    (continuing the above post since it is so hard to edit a post.)
    If not, why not? If so, how can it be accomplished?

  3. charlesdschultz Says:

    @pattsi – the main reason I ask others to show me (not describe – big difference) what democracy is is to encourage folks to “walk the walk”; I don’t want people to tell me what democracy is or looks like. I want to see it.

    We have too many talkers in this town. I fear I might be one of them. Hence the challenge.

  4. pattsi Says:

    O.K. seeing is believing–a great example is the informal John Street Watershed steering committee/group. 8 individuals who made a huge difference, got a huge project accomplished, and to this day continue to collaborate with UIUC classes to continue work on the JSW and do research as to the effectiveness of what has been done so far.

  5. Robert Knilands Says:


    The News-Gazette editorial is a weak attempt to justify its own poor coverage of this issue. It whiffed on getting the detail about the author of the e-mail, so its response is to blast a couple of board members, at least one of whom is newly elected.

    For years, the paper’s coverage of school board issues and city council issues — both Champaign and Urbana — has been exceptionally weak. One needs look no farther than the bylines and the Twitter traffic associated with said bylines to piece together a theory as to why that is. To be blunt, there isn’t much digging taking place, unless you consider stenography about what happened at the meeting to be digging.

    In this case, the reporter was probably in over her head in terms of figuring out how to get a detail that could have been obtained without using FOIA. That’s what happens when you haven’t developed sources or spent much time pressing for details. (The N-G’s breathless accounts of its past FOIA attempts are not in the same realm of covering a beat.)

    Even the N-G’s own editorial referred to the detail as “trifling,” despite its glaring inability to get said information! That would be humorous if it weren’t such a sad indictment of how the paper approaches the issue.

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