Michael Lerner

Wednesday - Mar 23, 2011

A hallmark of democracy is the ability to voice your concerns to public officials. Unfortunately, most city councils schedule meetings during the day, making it very inconvenient for citizens who work or are in school to testify. Sure, you can take some time off if you feel strongly enough about an issue and want to have your say. But is there a better way?

Yes, according to Reset San Francisco, a local organization that wants to open up local government. It’s a simple idea: Since almost everyone these days has access to the Internet and a video camera, let citizens submit video comments to public hearings via YouTube.

To prevent hearings from turning into mini film festivals, organizers have proposed some ground rules:

“We think the videos should be submitted by San Franciscans only. They should be two minutes. And at the beginning, we should have ten minutes of YouTube Testimony to see how it works.

We could make it social. So if more than five videos are submitted, then the videos with the most ‘likes’ would be played.”

Reset San Francisco is in the process of gathering signatures on a petition, which I assume will be submitted to the Board of Supervisors, San Francisco’s version of a city council. Although the city prides itself on its technological progressiveness, politicians, being who they are, will undoubtedly find some fault with this idea. After all, this is a very contentious city.

What problems do you foresee with this plan? Do you think video testimony would work in your town? Would you submit a video to a hearing?