As a former long-time resident of Washington, DC and a current member of the AmericaSPEAKS board, I’m pleased to read that 1,700 DC citizens recently spent seven hours in the Convention Center, deliberating about big strategic questions facing the city.
Using the AmericaSPEAKS model, they deliberated at small tables that were networked together by means of computers and then voted–their votes and key quotes displayed on big screens as simultaneous feedback.
Participants were a demographically diverse group (e.g., 44% African American and 19% Latino), and they held diverse views even after talking. For instance, gentrification was the top concern even though only 17% chose it. A different 15% chose “corruption and perceived corruption.”
The Washington Post chooses to lead its article by noting that the event has been “praised for engaging the public but criticized for its $600,000 price tag and seeming bureaucracy.” In this short piece, they also make sure to inform us that Mayor Anthony “Williams wore a plaid shirt and khakis, an everyman outfit” to a similar event in 1999, whereas Mayor Vincent “Gray appeared Saturday in a sports jacket and tieless.” By way of an explanation of the whole Summit, we read that “The Gray administration acknowledged the summit was a throwback to the administration of former Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a two-term mayor who often had to fight the perception that he was aloof.”
I was hoping the Post might actually report what all those citizens thought and said about the city. But I guess that’s not news; only the electoral motivations of professional politicians count as newsworthy.