Tag Archives: city hall

A Simple Way to Make Government Better – Give More People a Chance to Be Heard

There is a little food shop down the street from where I live that seems to know more about using technology than the $6 billion dollar organization where I work.

I work at San Francisco City Hall.

The shop in the Sunset District in San Francisco was having some challenges. People complained on Yelp. The shop owner was kind of mad at first, but then he figured it out. The response was actually helping him understand how to get better. And when he fixed the problems, the neighbors came back.

If we can use technology to make a small business more responsive to the neighborhood, why can’t we use it to make our government better?

The answer is we can.

That’s why I have a pretty simple idea to help make my City Hall more effective and responsive. And I would like to ask for your help in making it a reality.

My idea is to allow more people to talk back to government by being able to make their voices heard at City Hall by submitting YouTube videos that would be heard just like other public testimony.

If you have ever been down to your own City Hall to testify or if you have watched this process on TV you know the problem. What happens now is most of the testimony seems to come from about the same people who either work for government, are lobbyists or work for people who have city contracts or want city contracts.

There is nothing wrong at all with these people making their voices heard. And most of them here in San Francisco are pretty knowledgeable and committed to a better city. The problem is that not enough people can be heard. And a government decision is only going to be as good as the information it was based on.

Right now almost every single Board and Commission, including our Board of Supervisors, meets during the day. So what about the people who work or go to school or just can’t make it to City Hall on a few days notice? What about virtually everyone else?

So here’s a pretty simple – and absolutely free – way of making government better right now.

Let’s ask our government boards and agencies to accept ten minutes of testimony via YouTube, and hear that testimony on equal footing with the lobbyists and activists who can make it to City Hall.

We could make it social. So if more than five videos were submitted, only those with the most “likes” would be shown.

This may seem like a small idea. But it is based on a pretty radical concept – democracy works. The more people can be heard, the better our government will be. And when we open up government to more people, not just the usual suspects, the decisions will be more representative of the rest of us.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog about how we can reset local government. My idea was that one of the most progressive things we can do right now is to make government better.

Using technology to open up government is just a start. And we need to remember that not everyone has Internet access or knows how to make a YouTube video. But it is a big leap forward from the system we have now.

Resetting local government will take many steps. Here’s a pretty big one. Let’s allow YouTube Testimony at City Hall.

If You Agree – Sign the Petition: Yes – I want YouTube Testimony at City Hall