- About Us
- Community Guidelines

Advertising on BOR
- Advertise on BOR


We're Counting On You.

Burnt Orange Report is redeveloping our website for the first time in almost a decade.

We're counting on your support to continue providing you free and frequent coverage of progressive issues that matter to Texans.

Help us build a website that is as great as the content we publish on it.

Towards Ending Austin's 'Meetingopoly'

by: Julio Gonzalez Altamirano

Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 11:53 PM CST

This past November Austinites replenished our municipal democratic practices by shifting towards geographic districts and moving elections from May to November.  However, much work remains to be done to ensure that city government is truly open to the community's diverse perspectives. A high priority for reform is the City of Austin's approach to lobbying and public input.  

The city manager, city staffers, and council members are full-timers who work typical day hours (i.e. "9 to 5"). Presently, our policymakers routinely receive public input while the typical employed adult Austinite is working.   One-on-one policy advocacy and lobbying also happens during work hours.

Even when public hearings are scheduled during evenings or weekends, these sessions take place at a specific place during a set time.  If you can't get a babysitter, or you are out of town for work, or have a conflicting civic commitment, or can't afford/find the transportation to the location, then you are out of luck.  While a few superstar citizens persevere, these barriers create a 'meetingopoly' that favors professionals compensated to navigate pet issues through the process.  

In my experiences I've found that council members and civil servants are responsive to new voices; many are deeply sincere in seeking out exhaustive public input.  The problem I am identifying is that it is very hard for people to successfully and consistently engage without it being their job.

Truly democratizing public participation in Austin requires adoption of proven reforms including:

- Increasing the importance of digitally-submitted public input

- Shifting from exclusively paying consultants to chat with NGO leaders and civic junkies towards actually engaging the average Austinite through citizen juries and deliberative polling

- Adopting publicly-financed clean elections

As an initial step, I've requested that the City of Austin adopt the White House's approach to digital petitions.  This move will facilitate collective action, encourage the transition towards digital public input, and create easily-accessible, transparent accounts about where policymakers stand. Please join me in supporting this request here.


Copyright Burnt Orange Report, all rights reserved.
Do not republish without express written permission.

Tags: , , , , (All Tags)
Print Friendly View Send As Email

You've got my vote. (0.00 / 0)
The Jeff Jacks of Austin have about 100 times the vote of the average citizen - because their employment status and (lack of?) family life allow them to spend all day down at City Hall. This has to change if we're ever to grow up into a real city.

Amazon Referrals
Buying Back-to-School Books?

Use BOR's Amazon Referral and we'll receive a share of your purchase, at no cost to you!

Click here to shop.

Connect With BOR

2014 Texas Elections
Follow BOR for who's in, who's out, and who's up.

Candidate Tracker:
-- Statewide Races
-- Congressional Races
-- State Senate Races
-- State Rep. Races
-- SBOE Races
-- Austin City Council

Click here for all 2014 Elections coverage


Make a New Account



Forget your username or password?

Texas Blue Pages

Texas Blue Pages
A career network for progressives.


Shared On Facebook

Burnt Orange Reporters
Editor and Publisher:
Katherine Haenschen

Senior Staff Writers:
Genevieve Cato
Joe Deshotel
Ben Sherman

Staff Writers:
Omar Araiza
Emily Cadik
Phillip Martin
Natalie San Luis
Katie Singh
Joseph Vogas

Byron LaMasters

Blogger Emeritus:
Karl-Thomas Musselman

Read staff bios here.

Traffic Ratings
- Alexa Rating
- Quantcast Ratings

Powered by: SoapBlox