I hope this is the right place to post this If not, I kindly ask the moderators to move it to the appropriate forum. Thanks in advance!
I'm summarising the key points for my proposed activity at the RA, if I get elected. First I should say that, in my experience, we should not raise expectations too high. In a RA where each member is an individual, all having their own ideas regarding how to proceed, and who need to learn to work as a team before being able to do something together in terms of legislation, 6 months — about 12 meetings in all — is not much.
So I'm just focusing on four major key areas:
#1 — No more 'hidden power groups' ruling the CDS
As you all know, the right to free association is granted by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and, as such, we cannot prevent people from joining groups (or from leaving them). In terms of politics, what allegedly is happening is that some citizens, being close acquaintances, group together with the purpose of controlling the key official positions at the CDS Government.
This is neither illegal, nor bad, but just the exercise of a right of people to group together and do things as a group instead of individually. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
Except that, in terms of politics, it means less transparency. Anonymous groups are not subject to the public's scrutiny, and our constitution protects their right to privacy, so they're not 'forced' to reveal themselves and/or their agendas. But when it comes to govern our community, we, as citizens, have a problem: who are these groups and what do they plan for the CDS?
In earlier times, we addressed this issue by creating 'factions'. Factions were institutionalised groups: they had a formal existence, its membership was well known, and their agenda was published for everyone to see. Most of the factions held public debates, in-world and on the forums. When it came to election time, they were forced to reveal their agendas and make them public. You, as a citizen, would know exactly what those people had in mind when they asked you for a vote, and you knew who were their friends, colleagues, and fellow members.
Factions were abolished as a mandatory pre-requisite for getting elected — exactly because their agendas were known and people (rightly so) feared that some groups were 'taking control' as members of the faction got elected for more and more positions in the CDS. Ultimately, factions were accused of being more interested in seizing power for their own faction than to work for the common good of all citizens, and the restriction for candidates to be member of a faction was lifted.
Factions didn't disappear. They just became... secretive, anonymous, opaque, obscure, and mostly unknown. For example, in the past, the SC members were carefully chosen so that each faction would have at least a representative there. This was quite easy to know, since faction membership was listed publicly. Similarly, the Chancellor, although independently elected, usually would come from a faction and/or be supported by factions, publicly. So citizens could see which groups were 'seizing power' and, if they disliked the way things were going, they would just vote differently on subsequent terms.
Now we have absolutely no idea. We can spread rumours, speculate, accuse (often falsely) people of being 'part of a gang seizing power in the CDS', but the truth is, we have no clues.
I propose to reinstate the faction model, or, at least, to start the discussion around factions again. This doesn't mean a 'return to the past' — the faction model had problems back then, and, instead of fixing them, we just abolished factions. I propose mostly to engage the discussion in creating a mechanism which allows us the following things:
- Know in advance which government members are affiliated with each other
- Know what ideas they subscribe to, as a collective group (and not merely as individuals)
- Devise a mechanism that allows RA members to be easily replaced when a seat is vacated
In the recent terms, many citizens (at least the ones I've been talking with! — I cannot speak for the 'silent majority') voiced the concern that there are more willing citizens to join the CDS, but less available land than usual. Why? Because land seems to get arbitrarily 'locked down', or 'reserved', and somehow there is a complex system of 'preferences' in place, which means that from the perspective of a new buyer, it's almost impossible to figure out why they are excluded from buying land.
Lilith Ivory points out that this is not a new thing; she remembers clearly that there has always been locked land, left unsold, without reason, since at least fall 2007, when she joined. So don't think that this is a 'new' issue — it's an old one, which, however, seems to have set a precedent: the idea that, somehow, some people can be excluded from buying the land they wish because 'someone in power' told them so.
Now, this completely runs against the openness of the CDS.
In my view, there are just two requirements to become a citizen in the CDS: 1) Abide by the Constitution, Code of Laws, and Covenants; 2) Pay tier. Anything else is discrimination, and we, as a democracy, are supposed to be fighting discrimination. It doesn't matter if you're rich, poor, an avatar with 10 years or 10 days of existence, friends of X or enemies of Y — we're an all-inclusive community. There is not a profile for a 'typical citizen', or a 'kind of person we like best for the CDS'. All that is nonsense and has no place in a democracy. All are welcome.
So, I propose to replace the current land 'reservation' system to a model where it is more equanimous, and, more importantly, transparent. It should provide prospective buyers with a clear list of available land and what reservations are in place; if more than one reservation is made for the same land, this ought to be transparently shown (meaning that prospective buyers ought to be able to discuss among themselves who will get the land). If there is some good, well-fundamented reason (like a RA order!) to keep some land locked, this reason should be publicly available for everybody to see and comment upon. No single person in the CDS is supposed to have the power to decide who gets a piece of land and who doesn't.
I have recently learned that the Hippo system cannot do anything of the kind, and that its web-based interface is available just to administrators. However, I was also told that Hippo has stopped development and maintenance, its owners effectively giving up on it. Vic Mornington, who has some experience managing land rentals in other communities, recommends CasperLet, which is easy to setup and creates, in-world, a representation of all land that is available for buying — you don't even need to go to a webpage. Whatever system we end up with, the point here is that the current system is not public enough, and I propose to move to something which is transparent and clear to anyone wishing to join the CDS or expand their land.
#3 — Enact the Covenants fairly and equally
Roman temples in Neufreistadt? Modern furniture in the middle of the Forum in Colonia Nova? Unthinkable! But if you happen to 'know the right people' or even 'be in the right group' (permission-wise), you can do all that and so much more, and never think twice about it. On the other hand, talented builders are told to 'make their textures more dirty' because they look too shiny somehow, and don't fit in place.
What gives? The Covenants have allowed creative people to keep refurbishing their plots over the past 9 years while still sticking to theme, and, so far, they have served us well. However, the application of the Covenants have to be fair for everyone. Just because you don't like a person, that doesn't mean you are allowed to invoke the 'power of the Covenant' to prevent them to build. And, similarly, just because you have the power to change group-owned public land, that doesn't entitle you the right to build whatever you wish in public land — nor even on your own land.
I propose to push ahead some of Jos' bills where he suggests an independent 'last recourse' court of appeal for covenants. The idea is that the Chancellor (and the Janitors) are mandated to enforce the Covenants, but, since they are human, they can make mistakes — overlooking blatant violations, or being too zealous. So citizens should be able to appeal that decision in a speedy way, and thus the idea of having a separate 'Covenant Review Board' (or something similar) to deal with those issues. If it's part of the SC, or under the control of the RA, or completely separate, that's something to be discussed over the 20th term.
#4 — Curb the Chancellor's power
In our history, we have always aimed for a balance of power, with checks and balances between the three branches (even if the branches were different in the past!). But, again, since we're merely human, and there will always be ways of 'gaming' the system, there has always been ways for a branch to rule with close to 'ultimate power' by finding loopholes in the Law, and by managing to leverage personal influence and power to get the RA to approve laws that would give them more power.
The RA was not 'immune' to that, either. Some of you probably remember the general strike and rallys made by the Old Guild (which was the third branch in those days) because of the abusive position of the RA, which refused to pay for the public works and demanded free, voluntary work, without requesting input from the Guild.
Then we had a period of time where the Dean of the SC could, theoretically, refuse any legislation to be passed, by constantly vetoing what they didn't like, based on the (old) constitution which gave the SC the right to veto laws that went against the 'spirit' of the CDS. Because this was too vague — what is the 'spirit' of the CDS, anyway? It's a philosophical question — the SC's powers were much diminished.
Finally, the RA, because it only meets twice a month or so, had naturally a huge difficulty in doing the daily, routine work of managing the community. So the office of the Chancellor was created. From merely an administrative branch, subject to the RA — the Chancellor was appointed by the RA — the Chancellor's office grew to become the Executive Branch, elected by universal suffrage, giving thus the Chancellor exactly the same power (through the citizens' vote) than the RA. And, as a bonus, the Chancellor gets to veto the RA laws as well! Not to mention that the Chancellor is in direct control of land and (most) of the money, as well as all public information systems. Ironically enough, the CDS started without a 'President' or 'Leader' because we feared that, in the future, this position would be subject to abuse; but, over the years, the Chancellor has become exactly what we feared it would become: an office with quasi-unlimited power, able to override pretty much every legislation, able to interpret Covenants, assign land to whomever they wish for whatever price they want, kick people out without recourse or appeal, invite others in and hand them land, and veto all laws passed by the RA that they dislike. So far, the only thing that the Chancellor cannot (yet) do is to prevent elections — but they can certainly influence who gets on the citizens' list or not (by removing land, returning payments, and so forth, so as to influence the census).
Clearly this has gone too far.
I propose that the Chancellor still remains as an Executive Branch with the powers it has in spirit, but is further controlled and curbed by the RA — no more vetoing laws! Specifically, in everything land-related — because land is the foundation of our democracy! — all powers are in the hands of the RA: the Chancellor only has executive powers over land attribution, Covenant enforcement, and so forth, but no 'decision' ability. This has to be much clarified in the legislation — and enforced by the RA.
I also wish to have the Chancellor regularly addressing the RA and being questioned, as we did before. Jamie will hate me for this, but the RA has already impeached a Chancellor in the past for failing to uphold its rights and duties. Nowadays, this would be unthinkable — once elected, the Chancellor believes that they have absolute power and immunity from the RA and SC. This is not the case, but very likely the legislation has to be made much more clearer.
So these are the main points that ought to keep me busy for a whole term, if you elect me
There are minor points, too. I don't consider 'the Locus Amoenus mess' a 'minor' point, but I think it's closely tied to the above problems: the RA has not made the re-development process more thoroughly transparent, and somehow it was given the idea that the Chancellor has all the power to change everything without consulting the citizens, locking land, ignoring eminent domain laws (yes, we have those too!), and putting everything on hold for a year. Well, I'm aware that it's very hard to do any major redevelopment in the CDS in less than a year — democracy means that everything takes a lot of time in discussion! — but I also know that we can do better (that's why I posted some links for some old sites of the CDS, which show how the initial Locus Amoenus planning was done). I am as yet undecided if we should do one of the following:
- Abort the ongoing redevelopment planning and do it all from scratch, this time using the old established procedures, which are a LAW (yes they are!) — which means another year without a 'new' LA
- Just open up the LA parcels for sale and forget about the redevelopment. There are plenty of people willing to buy parcels there. We can think of redevelopment later — for the 6th sim!
- Change the current proposal so that only public and vacant land is redeveloped, but leave people with existing plots where they are, with the builds they have so thoroughly created over the months. This might mean a shorter period of waiting (but still some waiting!), but at least it would mean some people would not be losing their plots and buildings.
- Go ahead with the current plan, no matter how bad it is. It was, after all, approved by the RA.