What Is a Democracy City? I’d Love to Hear Your Views

Nations have long been considered the first unit of democracy. To say you live in a democracy is to say you live in a democratic nation.

But that’s a sentiment that may belong to a different era, when democracy was rapidly expanding. Now its growth has slowed down, and some countries have seen democratic reversals at the national level.

Surveys around the world show people have more confidence in the local governments where they live, and the local democracy they experience. Should we consider the city, then, the preferred unit of democracy? And if so, what does it mean to be a democratic city?

Those are the questions that will frame the 2018 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy, a free and public event that I will help to run this September 26-29 in the ancient city hall of Rome, Italy. I hope to see you there.

In advance of our forum, the Rome city council has passed a resolution calling on our event to draft a new “Magna Charta” – which makes me nervous, since it raises expectations – for democracy cities, and an international league they might join.

What should be in this Magna Charta? I’ll be leading the drafting effort based on input from the Forum, and from cities and their people all over the world. I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions What kind of direct democracy does a democracy city have? What kind of public participation in budgeting, planning, and other decision-making? Should a democracy city have certain commitments in areas from public contracting to public space?

The goal of the forum is to produce a draft of this Magna Charta in September and then circulate in around the world for a year, including via a public event in Southern California this November 5. (More details to come). Then, at the 2019 Global Forum in October 2-5, in Taichung, Taiwan, we will take that feedback, amend the draft, and then ask cities around the world to join the effort.

I am reachable in these comments here, on twitter @joemmathews or @GlobalForumDD, or by email at joe@zocalopublicsquare.org