Business

San Francisco gets a dose of online democracy with budget participation tool

SAN FRANCISCO — Today on the stage of TechCrunch Disrupt, San Francisco city supervisor David Chiu revealed a new tool that will let the city’s residents participate in the city’s budgeting — one of the most hotly contested issues in San Francisco.

San Franciscans can be an incredibly opinionated group, and a lot of lifelong residents are passionately participatory when it comes to local government.

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With this new tool for paticipatory budgeting, citizens can vote directly on budget items just as they would for propositions.

“Before I was an elected official, for nine years I was an entrepreneur,” Chiu said.

“You may think that government and innovation aren’t linked together, but in the last five years, we’ve made incredible strides.”

In addition to a slew of tech-friendly initiatives the city has implemented, Chiu said he’s worked to eliminate back-room deals between politicians.

“The idea is, if all of you are members of the city, we will ask you for the best ways to spend our money,” Chiu said, adding that “asking” also involved feedback, discussion, and debate.

Next year, Chiu said, the city will invest more in fostering community participation through deliberative polling and “real, digital participation.”

Challenges include issues of digital inclusion for lower-income residents and those without Internet access. But Chiu expressed faith in the city’s tech community to creatively overcome those obstacles.


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