Today’s Salt Lake Tribune carries an opinion piece by Steve Urquhart audaciously titled “The People Have Spoken.” Representative Urquhart somehow believes that consent was found via Politicopia’s discussion of HB148. Yet I feel my sole concern of vouchers was not only ignored by Representative Urquhart, it was outright mocked by a proponent. Representative Urquhart weighed in early on the discussion and promptly stopped with a link to the bill’s draft at revision 29. For some reason my concern of tax dollars going to extremists was not only scoffed at, but edited to remove references to America’s and Utah’s history of extremism. An additional discussion about the abortion bill had my “Pro” and “Con” sides of the issue removed completely.
I would chalk some of this up to SocialText’s inability to do moderated reversions, and Ted Gardiner’s baffling level of cutting and pasting, but regardless of where my words went, I have to ask why was I not heard? Representative Urquhart touts this Wiki as an open avenue to legislators. If that is true, why are the legislators barely participating? Urquhart has been trumpeting his innovation far and wide, yet he lightly participates on issues of his own crafting. Instead, he deems the public discussion fulfilled because a dozen people can voice their 2 cents in a Wiki, then moves on to the next issue. So far, the opponents of the Abortion Bill far outweigh the proponents, and all of them are talking about the fiscal issues of Utah challenging the Supreme Court. Will Urquhart and our legislators listen to that in the same manner they listened to my concern about tuition vouchers? So far, it doesn’t look good. If that is enhanced democracy, I beg to differ. I feel like I’ve been shuffled to an online “free speech zone” away from the actual debate.
When I started my Senate campaign Wiki last year, I was clear that it was an additional tool in the belt, not a substitute for all the tools. It also stands the danger, like email, to be largely ignored by our representatives who are actually making the policy. Even worse, it carries the pretense that we are being heard.
I personally would like to see legislation drafted allowing the State to expand the legislative website to allow commentary and, yes, a full Wiki as well. As I demonstrated this last year, any nutcake can setup a Wiki, what makes it powerful is when the legislators actually participate and use it. Governmental Wikis should be institutionalized and not under the control of a single company or individual. There is no excuse in this century for governments and legislators not participating in the online debate.