New York mayor-elect Bill de Blasio is about to get an earful.
Over the next two weeks, Talking Transition is going to collect comments, suggestions, and kvetching from New Yorkers around the city to help inform the fledgling administration.
The effort, which is funded by a number of philanthropic organizations including the Open Society Foundations, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, will take place in a tent erected on a Canal Street site in Lower Manhattan, on land owned by Trinity Church.
The tent will be open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. for two weeks. It will host an ongoing series of presentations and workshops about the wide range of challenges the new mayor faces – education, healthcare, affordable housing, transportation, policing, street safety, Sandy recovery, gentrification, jobs. In other words, it’s time for the hard stuff.
"This experiment creates a forum for civic participation in our city's governance which will elevate the best ideas and highlight the most glaring needs," Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, said in a statement. "If we are to create a just city infused with equity and inclusion, the voices of the people must continually be heard."
The project is the first of its kind, but could serve as a model for similar transitions in other cities.
De Blasio was elected by a crushing margin after promising a new course for the city, one focused on wresting focus from the interests of the rich and powerful. Now, a lot of people wonder if he will make good on that promise.
Many of them are represented by the non-profits and community organizations, and weren't sure where to voice their concerns and needs. Talking Transition is supposed to give ordinary people a forum in which to do that. It's also a space to ask their questions and learn about how the city is governed.
In addition to the tent in downtown Manhattan, there will be teams roaming the city's far-flung neighborhoods with iPads, collecting input through a specially designed engagement tool, as well as stations at city libraries and online tools for those who can't connect with Talking Transition in real life.
At the end of the project, the Talking Transition team will present "a qualitative and quantitative synopsis of the ideas and issues that are most talked about by New Yorkers," along with suggestions for how to keep the public engaged with the new administration.
In his victory speech on Election Day, de Blasio said, "Our work -- all of our work -- is really just beginning. And we have no illusions about the task that lies ahead." New Yorkers have a long list of things they want from a new mayor, and Talking Transition is going to make an unprecedented effort to get that list in front of the city’s new chief executive. De Blasio should get ready to start listening.