Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Democracies and Republics

At last night's District C Community Budget-O-Rama Crazy Complaint-and-Condescension-Fest, the Mayor took a few opportunities to explain the importance of democracy.. or lack thereof... in the American system of government.

First, we learned that our founders created a republic. And that is different from direct democracy in that the voters elect representatives who then make decisions for them about how to spend their money.
Dotting the crowd Tuesday were the green t-shirts of a group called the New Orleans Coalition for Open Government, whose members complained that a large part of the real budget negotiations has already happened between the mayor and his department heads, and asked Landrieu to consider an idea called “participatory budgeting.” That’s when a city or state sets aside a portion of its budget and residents vote on how it should be spent.

Landrieu sounded dubious. He pointed out that participatory budgeting would take a change in the city’s charter and noted that the country’s founders decided to establish a republic, not a direct democracy.
Later, though, we learned that there are public expenditures which the mayor thinks should be handled through more democratic means.  Such as the question of whether to comply with a judge's order to guarantee citizens their basic constitutional protections vis-a-vis the criminal justice system. 
Referring to a court agreement between Sheriff Marlin Gusman and the U.S. Justice Department on reforming the city’s troubled jail complex, which is likely to cost the city millions of dollars, Landrieu again argued that a federal judge is making decisions about the city’s budget priorities that should be left to voters. 
 But for those stupid founders and their damn judicial system, I guess. 

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