Juggling with democracy: preparing to write my next paper here

This week and next week are both odd for me, here at ICMA.  Today is Columbus Day, and we actually have work (it is a long story, but we have a tradition of enough people requesting to take the Columbus Day holiday off on Black Friday, after Thanksgiving, that they made it official policy).  That makes for an odd start to an odd week: most of the office is telecommuting today, and the Union Station area of DC is VERY uncharacteristically empty and lifeless.  The rest of this week, however, will involve the majority of our office doing the last-minute preparations for our annual conference next week, which is to be held in San Jose.  With all of this hustle and bustle going on, I am nonetheless sitting here at my desk with a stack of philosophy, some theology, and then a variety of international development literature, all for the purposes of my next paper for work.  This paper, however, is different than the others I have written here, and for several reasons.

This paper (I do not know yet how to label it, as it is not a “report,” but then again “theoretical proposal” doesn’t lend itself to ease of publication) is meant to revolved around two major themes: direct democracy, and cellular technology.  As is so often the case with human creativity, this idea is not entirely new (as early as 2003, there were major editorials considering the possibility of using cell phones to vote, and direct democracy itself is an idea from the ancient city-state of Athens), but I think I might have a new spin on this which is worth considering, especially for ICMA.  To make a long story short/give a brief introduction to this paper, I am basically going to seek to write from the point of view of ICMA regarding their understanding of democracy, how that works with their understanding of local government service-provision as an integral part of successful local government, and how those two form to combine perhaps a different understanding of “democracy” than the listing in our mission statement of a belief in “representative democracy.”  Then, with this synthesis of representative democracy and service-provision in mind, as well as our nearly century-old commitment to ethics and transparency in local government, I will have set the stage for a consideration of these ideas versus some of the strands of philosophy that they match (the current list is William James, John Rawls, and perhaps Martin Buber).


Armed with these more general ideas undergirding the beliefs of ICMA, it will be possible to draw parallels between our (ICMA’s) current beliefs and the philosophies which guide them, to point to the possibilities that direct democracy via cell phones would offer us, and most importantly, why this new direction would not only be compatible with ICMA’s aforementioned beliefs, but also perhaps drawing those beliefs more closely together, in new and innovative ways.  As our International Team prepares for several new projects (including but not limited to: sustainable building codes in the Kingdom of Jordan, water infrastructure in Afghanistan, and professionalism in city management in Iraq), it is actually very important that ICMA has a strong sense of how our beliefs and mission statement fits together; by working on this paper, I hope to be able to go the route of Michelangelo and simply chip away the things that are superfluous to our core beliefs about democracy, only leaving the important and innovative ones behind.

(As a side note, it turns out that this blog can also serve as the end to writer’s block: the above is the first time I have managed to get the above out, in order, and succinctly!  😀   )