The practical objective of this site is to increase two-way communication between you and your local government. Although the RDOS has a fully-functional website, this site is meant to be less formal and, as a consequence, more timely. See the Area 'F' page on the official RDOS website.
[Argh, this site was lost: see this posting for more information]
A secondary objective of the site is to facilitate, encourage, and experiment with a kind of "deliberative democracy" within Area F. What is deliberative democracy? The term is used here to describe a useful tradeoff between consensus decision making (which is clearly impractical in a large diverse area containing more that 2,000 residents) and representational democracy (in which residents delegate their decision making capacity to an elected representative and, as a consequence, tend to withdraw from the decision making process). Deliberative democracy is an iterative dialog that takes place between elected officials and citizens. Each iteration consists of listening and speaking phases. This website is meant to support deliberative democracy in three ways:
- Provide the director of Area F a direct communication channel to residents of the area. There are pages devoted to important issues as well as a running blog to keep you up to date on what is happening in Area F and in the RDOS boardroom. The idea is to get more information to residents faster.
- Provide residents of Area F with means of making public comments on issues that effect us all. The effect is similar to a town meeting except you do not have to actually sit through a town meeting or speak in front of a large crowd to make yourself heard.
- Serve as the focal point for surveys, polls, and other tools designed to elicit the views of residents on important issues.
- Provide a living repository of information about our area by tapping into the wealth of knowledge that exists within our community. Think of it as a Wikipedia for Area F—all you have to to is share what you know.
In addition, we are using this site to run inexpensive web-based surveys on various topics. I favor the Delphi technique, which works roughly as follows:
- A panel of residents is asked to participate in a survey in which their views on the issue are elicited.
- The results of the survey plus additional background information are posted back to the website. Residents are asked to read (deliberate on) the new information.
- Residents then participate in a second survey to see if their views have changed base on new information and feedback from their neighbors.
The idea is that, over time, a rough consensus develops in which a majority of participants draw the same conclusions from the same information.