Citizen engagement in Vancouver

While Austrian politics is becoming more and more of a fake democracy (whether it’s on the military referendum or the Viennese referendum), the Austrian newspaper DER STANDARD leads the way in terms of true participation. For a special issue on direct democracy it asks its readers for their ideas on articles as well as their feedback on other readers’ proposals.

Although today is the last day on which it is possible to contribute ideas, I would appreciate if you register on their platform and vote for my proposal called “Talk Vancouver: True citizen engagement on issues of the future” (“Talk Vancouver: Echte BürgerInnenbeteiligung zu zukunftsweisenden Themen“).

 

Here is a translation of this propsal:

Thanks to my one-year stay in Vancouver, I currently see what it means to be a truly engaged citizen, both with regards to your respective neighbourhoods and communities as well as the general development of such a rapidly changing city. In this regard, there are four critical and exciting issues on which the City of Vancouver has started an online and offline citizen engagement process called “Talk: Vancouver” in order to get broad feedback from its citizens.

It all started in 2009 to 2011 with a comprehensive citizen engagement process where more than 30,000 citizens contributed to the development of Vancouver’s Greenest City 2020 Action Goals. In 2012, citizens were invited to raise their voices in the development of the long-term transportation plan “Transportation: 2040”, the critical issue of affordable housing und the city’s budget.

Moreover, there are also smaller forms of citizen participation centered around specific issues such as construction projects, the design of public spaces, the development of neighbourhoods as it is currently the case with the West End, Marpole or Grandview-Woodland, the redesign of streets, etc. and recently the Mayor even set up an Engaged City Task Force with 22 citizens (out of 117 applicants).

In addition, even companies that deal with issues of citizen engagement such as the start-up PlaceSpeak were founded in this city in which the critical issues of the present and future such as sustainability, climate change, urban development, affordable housing, health, etc. are broadly discussed.

Instead of a ridiculous public referendum with biased questions and oversimplified yes/no answers like in Vienna, the City of Vancouver shows how true citizen engagement can be achieved in various ways, both offline and online. An overview on the issues and methods would definitely be an exciting story for this special issue of DER STANDARD!

 

There was also a good comment on my proposal by the user “stv01” on the Adhocracy platform that I would also like to translate here:

This is the difference between Canada and Austria. In Canada, citizen engagement means engaging citizens right from the start of a planning process where those will participate who know enough about the specific issue. In Austria, citizen engagement only means to let people vote on an issue after it has been planned (with the exception of the current referendum on an Viennese Olympics proposal that even lacks any specific details and proposals for sports facilities) in the form of idiotic yes/no decisions which should even be binding if there’s just a very low voter turnout. This could mean that a minority decides what the majority should do.

Posted on January 7, 2013 in Democracy

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About the Author

Andreas Lindinger is a Vienna-based business consultant, sustainability expert and urban thinker passionate about livable cities, sustainable transportation, renewable energy and civic engagement. Andreas offers a transdisciplinary business, finance and sustainability background, industry expertise in energy, mobility and environmental consulting and broad international experience gained in Vienna, Vancouver, Berlin and Dublin. Make sure to also check out Vienncouver.com and to follow @lindinger on Twitter.

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