Ongoing Citywide People's Assemblies
Civic culture and democratic processes are not something which should only be encouraged and funded during the election period. We need support for democratic culture to be sustained throughout the year in order to make the regular election cycle more deeply meaningful. Ongoing citywide People's Assemblies could be the catalyst for a richer, deeper democracy at the level of neighborhoods which can surge upward towards the other parts of municipal government.
A People's Assembly is mostly self explanatory in its name, but the process of building collective voice and shared power within a community while creating a regular space for every community to raise issues of deep concern can push issues which have been largely ignored onto the agendas of elected officials. As these bodies build structure and consistent participation, they could supplant some of the functions of elected alderman.
Participatory budgeting should be a part of every ward and the power of that purse could be help by the assembly. Alderwoman Maria Hadden has taken some steps to implement assembly style politics in her ward by building deeply participatory communication channels with her constituents, regularly explaining her decisions at length, and leaning into critique of those decisions while being open to shifting her position.
Most aldermanic powers and decisions could be delegated to ward or neighborhood assembly rather easily which brings daylight and transparency to our current shadowy practices of deals being negotiated in closed offices. Building this type of civic culture has proven to raise democratic participation and practice across channels. If we want deeper participation in election cycles, fund the work of build civic practice in the smaller spaces of block clubs, neighborhood associations and independent political organizations.