Imagine that community forums are regularly held in Oakland in every neighborhood – in libraries, churches, schools, and other community spaces.
People come together to discuss the important issues of their neighborhoods and of the city. Unlike the usual sorts of public forums where officials deliberate with token input from ordinary folk, these gatherings are run by the people in the community.
At these Neighborhood Assemblies people would not merely make recommendations to officials but they would actually make fundamental decisions.
They would decide how the city is to run. They would decide the city budget. What percentage should go to police, to youth programs, parks, transit, etc.? What new programs do we need? Which programs do we phase out? Although city staff provide the necessary technical expertise and city officials continue to do the detailed day-to-day work of managing city business, the fundamentals of how our city works – as reflected in our budget – is decided directly by the people. We would have strong participatory democracy at the local level. Our empowered neighborhood assemblies would provide a template for other cities to follow, and could scale up and inspire the deepening democracy at the county, state, and even national level.
By bringing people together to discuss, debate, and decide on concrete issues that affect their lives, the Neighborhood Assemblies would help thousands of people in Oakland—from all walks of life—improve their communication, critical thinking, and leadership skills, and build collective understanding and collective power.
This is exactly the kind of culture shift our society needs. Join us! There are many ways you can help. Contact us to see how you can get involved.