When the Issues Forum Becomes the Issue

I had very interesting experience this morning as I was browsing through the Roseville Issues Forum and ran accross the following message, Tax payer cost of this forum. Is it worth it?

“this coming monday night the roseville city council will be taking a vote to spend $6000 of our taxpayer dollars to continue this e-democracy/roseville issues website. do you think this is worth $6000 to the citizens of roseville? can you think of something else that might be more worthwhile to spend $6000 of our tax dollars on or do you think this is a wise expenditure?”

The item before the Roseville City Council, has to do with a contract that they have negotiated with E-Democracy.Org to organize an E-Democracy.Org chapter in their community. In addition to hosting the forum, I’ve agreed to serve as the temporary forum manager for the first six months, to model how its done. It’s also our responsibility to identify and train a local Forum Manager and steering committee, that will take over management of the forum after six months. We’ll continue to provide hosting and technical support after that.

While, the person who raised the above question – posted his question in a very respectful and open manner. I have little doubt that he is, at the least, skeptical of this use of public funds.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This is exactly what the Issues Forum is all about. Its about creating a space where citizens can raise these kinds of questions. Where they can offer their opinion on local projects and hopefully influence how local government distributes its resources. The forum is read by several city councilors and a number of city hall staffers and this gentlemans comments are sure to be noticed (potentially commented on at tonights city council meeting).

Clearly, the use of public funds to support this kind of online space for citizen participation is a very legitimate matter over which reasonable people can disagree. And even folks supportive of e-democracy efforts might disagree over how much can or should be spent on it.

Clearly, its the kind of topic that we like to encourage in our forums. Yet, were it not for the forum. I can’t help but wonder where this gentleman would have posted his query/comment in such a quick, easy, and public way?

Tim Erickson

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