Open Space for Democracy is one of my favorite books of all time, which made me sad that I wasn’t able to go last night when Terry Tempest Williams was speaking downtown on climate change. Though, it seems I wouldn’t have been too happy if I had gone. I’m not too happy right now.

This is a forum?

After a series of written audience questions directed at the speakers and moderated by KPLU Radio reporter Liam Moriarity, attendees were asked to fill out commitment forms in their programs, pledging to help. The solutions included installing fluorescent light bulbs, buying recycled items and reducing car trips. The forms were collected in the lobby.

Second hand I heard that both Williams and the other speaker talked for a half hour and then combined they took three questions. Not too open forumy to me. Not much like a democracy either, it sounded more like a lecture.

I know the point of the “forum” was to spark action, but 1,000 people out of a city of 40,000 plus (and I’m assuming that some of the folks came from out of town), doesn’t sound very cost effective to me.

Bringing big time speakers in seems like more of the role of something like the

If, on the other hand, we’re talking about a local government trying to formulate policy, I think we need a different approach. The $25,000 we spent could have gone a lot further to bringing people together.

  • The city tried to put together an ad hoc committee of citizens to help guide the budget, but that fell apart. Maybe if we paid people for their participation in a group like that, much like we do with a criminal jury, we would have gotten a better response. The jury idea has already been talked about outside of the court arena.
  • If we spent $25,000 on building a city club (like in Portland, Tacoma or Eugene) that would go a lot further in building democracy here than bringing in high priced talent for a “forum.” Or maybe a something a little more active, like an English Civil Society group.
  • King County just approved a plan to bring together small discussion groups that will report back to the county auditor and then the county council. This system will cost about $130,000

a year for a county of over 1.5 million people. I wonder what we could get for $25,000 is a city of just over $40,000. There is even a bill that has been introduced for this on the state level.