Pattsi Petrie has shared on her blog an extremely curious experiment carried out with the Champaign County Board on a “participatory budget”. I encourage you to read more directly from her – the opening line is an excellent invitation:
On 4 Sept., the Democratic caucus of the Champaign County Board has arranged to hold an opportunity to engage the county citizens in an open dialogue as to the best means to spend your tax dollar.
Isn’t that what we all want, a way to give some kind of input as to where all those thousands of tax dollars are going? And yet, when our wishes slam into reality, it isn’t necessarily a pretty picture. In fact, it is downright messy! Pattsi’s blog post is a long read, but it spells out the challenges along the way and, to me at least, points out that there is still a significant amount of work to be done, and we all have a social obligation to chip in. But the process of paving the path is exciting!
When it comes down to it, you and I just complain way too much. We are quite blessed, especially living here in America. Yet look at our habits; we saturate social media with our view of what is wrong and trade 140 character tropes; yet what really changes? What are we doing to make the world a better place?
I am not exactly sure what a better “democratic republic” would look like. I am not sure if a well-oiled and well-attended participatory budget session would induce more accountability into a largely misunderstood and heavily manipulated way of transacting business. But I do know to do nothing is unacceptable. Maybe all us whiners should roll up our sleeves and get to work. 🙂 Makes you wonder, what if (as the quote constituent points out) other bodies like the City of Champaign or the school districts did something brave like this? Hmmmm…
Kudos to Pattsi for pushing this idea.