Do you have an idea about an issue in Provo and would like to see the city council consider it? Until now that meant getting the attention of a council member who was willing to put it on a council agenda and have the council’s staff put the proposal into legislative language for a vote — not really simple or fast.
But now Provo has started the People’s Lobby, an online forum and decision-making group that will get the council’s attention, and pretty quick. For the first session of the program, residents can submit issues for consideration until April 15. After that, a group of 34 randomly selected Provo residents (who’ve applied for the chance, with one from each neighborhood) will decide on which issue to focus. You have to be 18 years old to submit an idea and be part of the decision-making group.
All the discussion among the 34 members will be online, and moderated by people from BYU’s Political Science Department. On May 19, they’ll present their proposal to the city council during a work session; the council will formally vote on the issue in June.
The reason for having a person from each neighborhood is because the council wants to make sure all geographic areas of the city are represented, and that “it’s fair around the entire city,” said Karen Tapahe, the council’s community relations coordinator.
“We really hope this becomes a great outlet to the general public to make their voices heard.” —Karen Tapahe, Provo council’s community relations coordinator
“We really hope this becomes a great outlet to the general public to make their voices heard,” Tapahe said — though people have always been welcome to talk to council members about their ideas, she added.
But there is some skepticism about the program, she said, with people wondering if an online group is the best way to go about citizen-initiated legislation.
The idea to bring the People’s Lobby to Provo came from Councilman Hal Miller, who was familiar with the work of the program’s creator, Jeff Swift.
The program hasn’t been active for long, but there already have been some ideas submitted, Tapahe said. One of the issues she’s heard about being discussed is an anti-discrimination ordinance, but now that the state has adopted a similar law, she’s not sure where that will go.
Once this cycle is done, the process will start all over again, she said, with a submission deadline, a new group of 34 residents and new legislation for the council to consider.