Earlier this month, the Spanish capital Madrid launched a portal where citizens can discuss issues with any municipal employee, including the mayor of the city. Within a few weeks, they should be able to submit proposals to the City Council and vote on them.
Everything that happens at City Hall, every corner should be seen by citizens, says Pablo Soto, Councillor for Citizen Participation.
They should also be participating in the decision-making process. It's my role to represent the citizens here, but also to implement mechanisms for them to represent themselves.
All registered citizens can join a forum discussion or open one themselves. Visitors can also vote positively or negatively on the relevance of the discussions, which are organised according to their popularity.
Harsh criticisms are welcome, as long as they do not break the law. Comments can be deleted by staff members and volunteers, but their actions can be reviewed by the public.
Within a few weeks, this portal will be replaced with an updated version that allows citizens to submit proposals to the City Council. Ideas that get the support of 2 percent of the municipal census will be subject to consultation. If an idea is then endorsed by voters, the Council will be obliged to implement it, as long as it is not against the law, it falls within the area of the City's responsibilities, and it does not exceed budgetary limits.
Within a few months, citizens may also be able to decide on the municipal budget spending. Initially, they will have a say in a small percentage of the money that goes to the districts, from which most is spent on social services. The percentage and the scope, however, will grow over time. In this regard, the City is looking at the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, where neighbourhoods now decide over 5 percent of their budgets.
Open source software
The portal is built on the Consul participation application, which is published by the City as open source software.