Has there ever been a public meeting that you really, really wanted to attend, but couldn't? No, seriously. Maybe it was on parking or bus routes or signage or some other issue that directly affects your day-to-day life, but the meeting is happening smack-dab in the middle of the workday?
Well, Agora — a nascent Cambridge startup — is "here to lower that barrier to participate in democracy" by creating online town hall meetings for local communities, according to its founder Elsa Sze. (She was an organizer for the Obama 2012 campaign before going to graduate school at Harvard University and starting the tech company.)
Already folks are logging in.
Cambridge City Councilor Nadeem Mazen started a town hall in June that touched on everything from broadband to increasing the minimum wage to affordable housing.
Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu held a July town hall to talk about sandwich boards (the triangle-shaped sidewalk signs). Apparently, they can be a nuisance or godsend depending on the location and perspective – shop owner vs. pedestrian, tiny North End streets vs. more spacious sidewalks in Jamaica Plain.
And last month, South Boston activist Maureen Dahill wanted to know what her neighbors thought about bus stops and parking. Dahill asked for solutions to Southie's ongoing saga on parking (or lack thereof) and wanted to know if bus stops would stay on East Broadway or move back to East Fourth Street.
"Our democracy is so much more than elections," Sze says in a video on the company's website.
So this – digital civic engagement platforms – is what democracy, or at least part of it, looks like.