Manifesto for Gwyneth Llewelyn and answering questions

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Manifesto for Gwyneth Llewelyn and answering questions

Post by Gwyneth Llewelyn »

Dear all,

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!
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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:
  1. Know in advance which government members are affiliated with each other
  2. Know what ideas they subscribe to, as a collective group (and not merely as individuals)
  3. Devise a mechanism that allows RA members to be easily replaced when a seat is vacated
#2 — No more exclusions from land purchases

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:
  1. 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
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. Go ahead with the current plan, no matter how bad it is. It was, after all, approved by the RA.
Which is best? From my perspective, none is perfect. All the four have problems. Maybe this is a clear case for a referendum, but we might not have time to do that simultaneously with the upcoming elections...
Last edited by Gwyneth Llewelyn on Fri Nov 08, 2013 7:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Added a picture for my campaigning!
"I'm not building a game. I'm building a new country."
  -- Philip "Linden" Rosedale, interview to Wired, 2004-05-08

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Gwyneth Llewelyn
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And now for the questions!

Post by Gwyneth Llewelyn »

I'm trying to answer the many questions that other candidates have already answered:

1) Many citizens of CDS indicate they have no interest in politics.
How do you plan to engage those citizens to ensure that you represent the 'silent majority', as well as those who are very vocal about their needs and wants?


I have just a simple answer to that. It might not be the best one, but it's an honest one!

Whether I am elected or not, I will continue to hold informal debates/meetings every week or so, which are public to attend, for citizens to vent their needs and wants. In my experience, these semi-formal meetings (informal in the way they are held; formal in the way they're announced through the regular channels) often reach people who otherwise have no patience to discuss things about the CDS. The experience in the past 6 weeks or so has shown that there is always a different group coming to those meetings, they always provide some input, and even if they are aware that I have currently no power to enact any of their ideas, they at least feel they're being heard. This has worked well in the past and apparently continues to have a positive impact right now, so I'll continue to do that!

Politics doesn't necessarily mean going through obscure legislation and fighting backbenching lobbies. A political statement is often just 'I'm fed up with this! Why can't we do it differently?' The in-world meetings are great for that!

2) Is it your opinion that we wish to encourage particular types of people to settle in CDS, and, if so, what types are they?

Simply put:

There are just two requirements to be a citizen in the CDS:
  1. Abide by the constitution, laws, covenants
  2. Pay tier
I'm absolutely opposed to any other requirement to be a citizen in the CDS.

3) How do you intend to build a more vibrant, active community in CDS?

I have to be honest: I'm no marketeer. So I don't know.

What do people do when they don't know how to do something?

They hire experts to do their job.

That's what I propose to do — to outsource the building of a more vibrant, active community to someone (or some group) who knows how to professionally manage that. Ideally, this outsourcing would be done to someone who is already a citizen in the CDS, but, if we cannot find people with the required skills, we ought to search for them elsewhere (eventually they will also become citizens...).

If you're disappointed with this answer, just let me tell you that this is what I do in RL as well: no single person is able to come up with solutions for all kinds of problems. The most complex problems require experts who know what they are doing. So, iRL, what I tend to do is to surround myself with the best experts I can afford to pay, and make sure they tackle the problems much better than I can do. This is what I propose to do for the CDS as well: putting the best people in charge of dealing with the most complex problems, and just watch over them to make sure they are, indeed, doing what the CDS citizens wish them to do :)

4) Vacancy rates have an impact on CDS economic stability and on the businesses and community activities of CDS; the coming changes to Locus Amoenus are a result of such vacancies.
If Locus Amoenus (or any sim) continues to have empty parcels for extended periods would you propose adjustments or changes, and if so, what adjustments or changes would you suggest?


I cannot answer that question seriously. Every time plots are open up for sale, they quickly disappear. 'Vacancy rates' seem to be often a consequence of land being locked, held in reserve, being switched among citizens, and so forth. So this issue is really, really tricky: do we really have vacant lots, or do we just artificially have vacant lots? Right now, I cannot answer the question.

I'm in favour of a dynamic environment which changes to better adapt to the realities of Second Life. For instance, in a recent meeting, I was told that mini-plots are currently not in fashion in SL, and, since there are always so few adjacent plots for sale in the CDS — specially on sims like NFS which are full of mini-plots — some people get put off, knowing that they will hardly ever have a chance to get larger plots, and give up. They might come to events but don't consider owning land in the CDS. If this is indeed the case, then it makes sense to re-develop some plots to make them larger and thus more easily sold. Sticking to a formula that worked in the past but does not work today is being stubborn, so I'm all for doing adjustments.

As for what precise adjustments are to be done, again, I leave that issue to the experts — people who have come from other communities, or who have developed tools for land management, or who are simply in touch with the land rental/leasing business and understand the issues better and can make more valid recommendations. Fortunately, we have lots of people like that who are citizens in the CDS, so what I propose is to bring them into a formal meeting for them to make concrete recommendations. Besides the CDS, I don't own land in any other 'community' or 'rental business' so I have really no idea how the 'land baroning' business is thriving these days, and what is expected of that business. But because I have no idea, I'm not afraid to ask and act upon the recommendations of those who know how it works, and what the CDS is doing wrong.

5) From Rosie Gray: I would ask the other candidates what their positions are on the restrictions that have been proposed for the Chancellors position

In short —
  1. Limit the veto power over legislative matters
  2. No more decision ability over land issues; only management/administrative powers over land (decisions are left for the RA). This means no more land locking, reserving, seizing, switching, selling for L$0, etc. without explicit mandate by the RA to do so.
  3. Board of Covenant Appeal for recourses in case a citizen feels that a Covenant has not been enforced correctly and/or abused
  4. Regular meetings with the RA to present a list of issues and how they are being solved
6) From Penelope Gossamer: As a new citizen to CDS, I would like to hear how the candidates suggest new comers learn about CDS and get involved in the community.

I have two concrete suggestions: the first, something that I've promised to do with Delia Lake but haven't started yet (all my fault, none of hers!!), is to hold regular 'Civic Classes' (we might name them something less daunting), where new citizens and prospective citizens can hear about the way the CDS works, namely, the rights they have as citizens to influence government, and the duties each citizen and elected official has. Parallel to that, I will also hold informal in-world debates/discussions about the current issues affecting citizens. Note that I will do these things independently of whether I get elected or not :)

The second thing, as posted on another thread, is to try to see if we can revamp the many online communication channels of the CDS, namely, the blogs/webzines, Facebook page (eventually Twitter), etc. This unfortunately depends on a lot of volunteer work — but perhaps, instead of relying on the 'old hands' to keep those websites updated, a far better solution would be to open them up to new citizens to participate. The more volunteers we have for that kind of work, the less each one of them has to do to spread information around :)

7) From CLEOPATRA Xigalia: What failed policies have led to the decline of the CDS that prompted the chancellor to ask the RA to consider a tier increase?

Personally I think it was a lack of transparency in the process: 'things happen' within an Inner Circle of citizens who are constantly in touch with each other and are very active within the community, but what they do is not publicly known, and, as such, the measures they enact — locking land, excluding some citizens but not others, redeveloping parts of the CDS, hiring people for hosting events, randomly applying the Covenants when they are needed for their 'plan' — are often mysterious or at least little understood.

I propose all the above to be addressed by forcing more openness, more transparency, and demanding that the agendas are publicly commented and discussed, instead of remaining hidden. This may, or not, mean re-introducing formal 'factions' which list their members and intentions publicly.

8) From CLEOPATRA Xigalia: "Would [Did] you ever discuss about redesigning CN as well? and with what criteria?"

I would most certainly be willing to discuss a redesign of Colonia Nova and be fully supportive of any plan that at least addresses the following issues:
— limiting lag
— improving the quality of the builds (note that this doesn't mean that everything ought to be 'white and shiny marble' — Roman buildings used a variety of materials and were painted colourfully, but paint would also flake)
— restrict 'wasted' public land, or at least make sure that public land is in an appropriate group to be used by all (and can be set as an event location via LL's event management system)
— improve the look of the Praetorium as the Seat of Power, as per Vic's suggestions
— add more 'green' areas inside the walls, as long as these are historically accurate
— support Visually Speaking better, instead of confining them to a skybox
— rethink the sizes of the plots, as currently larger-sized plots seem to be more sellable (but confirm with people with experience in the land baroning business if this is the case)
— get rid of all 'modern' looking things on public areas
— make sure that shops and similar venues who will invariably have 'modern' things on display are curtained or have similar visual barriers so that they do not 'break' the Ancient Roman look & feel
— commission a working ship that can be used to navigate the river!

Note that the two first points might require a move towards mesh.

9) From Patroklus Murakami: "Do you support raiding the CDS reserves for a cash giveaway to current citizens? What level of reserves do you think is fiscally responsible?"

I resent the language, because if taken literally, I would obviously answer 'no'.

The original proposal was actually to plan a method where citizens would get dividends from the CDS' surplus revenues.

I personally am against it for political reasons — I prefer that the cash reserves are invested in improving the current sims (yes, that might mean paying for the public works, instead of relying upon volunteers) and to be invested in future sims. However, I understand that the idea has its appeal ('do something for the community, get dividends from your efforts in supporting the community') and I'm at least willing to discuss some ideas, so far as they are fiscally sound.

10) From Pip Torok: "What importance do you place on building an abiding trust in each of those you represent, a trust that gives confidence that you will work on their behalf?"

That trust is guaranteed by the vote. If citizens don't believe I'm representing them well, they will not elect me (or vote me out) any more.

11) From Cacilla McMasters: " I am a past citizen of CDs. My husband and I lived her for nearly 8months. Had a home and business here. When we left it was because we couldnt get our issues resolved concerning our land after much debate and pleading. Our needs and concerns were treated as unimportant.

Q: What do you feel you can do to keep good citizens in CDs.? "


This is related to my proposals for the land management. To summarise: curb the Chancellor's powers in arbitrarily handling land as if it were their own (it isn't; it's not even held in trust; land is solely the responsibility of the RA, as the elected body representing the citizens, and all the Chancellor is supposed to be doing is acting administratively in fulfillment of the RA's requests), and add a Covenant Board of Recourse or similarly named institution to handle appeals and revert unfair decisions.

See also my answers regarding transparency in the reservation of land parcels, etc. and my point #2 of the Manifesto.

12) From Kazz Lourdes: "Citing the arguement for a citizanry that complies with the bylaws of the community, is there or do you recomend a many to which the spirit of the law be adjudicated so that he that has the gold makes the rules is not ligua fraca..If so how??"

If I understand the question correctly, right now, we already have that in place: one citizen, one vote — no matter how much land or money they have. With my tiny NFS plot I'm entitled to vote and get elected as much as the Monastery group which owns a whole sim :)

13) From Vic Mornington: "I have seen almost everyone speak on how they would engage more with communities, bring in more people, take up more events... list the top 2 ways you would do this…"

Hire an expert to do that :)

All I know what to do is to chat. So I'll continue to hold in-world informal debates about the state of the CDS, which eevrybody can attend to vent their frustrations and make their needs known :)

14) From Rosie Gray: "Do you think that paying for someone's tier and/or land purchase and then asking them to vote for your choice of candidate is the correct way to find new citizens?"

That's a loaded question :) but I stick to my fundamental point of view regarding citizens: all they are required to do is to abide by the constitution, code of laws and covenants, and pay tier. Obviously we cannot prevent someone to give them money and let them pay tier with the money they've been given; and obviously we cannot prevent eager citizens to go out and ask their friends to come to the CDS because they just happen to love it. It's only natural that if you like a place you will be inviting your friends to come!

But I understand that the concern is mostly dealing with 'buying votes'. Personally I don't think this is impossible to prevent, because either you implement an all-inclusive community (which is what we have), or we practice ostracism, where 'someone in power' controls who is allowed to join the CDS and who doesn't. I abhor ostracism, while also being against 'vote buying' and corruption; but I think that ostracism is the greater evil.

From Rosie Gray: "Do you think that CDS citizens should be given priority when it comes to the creation of or purchasing of new builds for the community? Explain why or why not."

I'll copy this from my in-world informal debate, where this question was asked:

[15:44] Gwyneth Llewelyn: Because, you see, no matter how I answer,
[15:45] Gwyneth Llewelyn: there will be always someone who will be benefited, and someone who will be prejudiced
[15:45] Gwyneth Llewelyn: To be honest, from a strictly ethical point of view,
[15:45] Gwyneth Llewelyn: I abhor anything which has the word 'seniority' in it,
[15:45] Gwyneth Llewelyn: because it somehow gives the idea,
[15:45] Gwyneth Llewelyn: that the 'older' you are in the CDS the 'more rights' you have.
[15:46] Gwyneth Llewelyn: Now, ethically speaking, I cannot agree with that.
[15:46] Gwyneth Llewelyn: In a democracy, *every citizen has exactly the same rights*
[15:46] Gwyneth Llewelyn: It doesn't matter if you've just arrived yesterday,
[15:46] Gwyneth Llewelyn: or are a founding member of the CDS
[15:46] Gwyneth Llewelyn: (fortunately, there is just one left!)
[15:46] Gwyneth Llewelyn: So that's my ethical answer.
[15:46] Gwyneth Llewelyn: However, I also understand the reverse side of the coin:
[15:46] Gwyneth Llewelyn: people who have invested a lot of their time in LA,
[15:47] Gwyneth Llewelyn: making it the beautiful sim it is today,
[15:47] Gwyneth Llewelyn: are naturally resentful that they get kicked out just because they were unlucky in the draw
[15:47] Gwyneth Llewelyn: What I would PREFER,
[15:47] Gwyneth Llewelyn: even though it might not be POSSIBLE,
[15:47] Gwyneth Llewelyn: would be to put everyone with an interest in a plot in LA together,
[15:48] Gwyneth Llewelyn: and let them discuss in a friendly way who gets what.
"I'm not building a game. I'm building a new country."
  -- Philip "Linden" Rosedale, interview to Wired, 2004-05-08

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