While following the news of the recent demonstrations in Turkey I found myself asking, why in the world the prime minister of a 'democracy' is the one deciding about the gentrification of a city square? Doesn't this city of 13.9 million have an urban development office, a city architectural committee, a city council, a mayor, or any other local authority or organization of its own, that can decide about projects with direct impact on the life and livelihood of its residents?

The picture I took in a recent visit to Istanbul while riding a tour bus in Kennedy Boulevard on the edge of Sea of Marmara (above), may offer an answer in the form of a few rhetorical questions: What if the owner of this empty lot will decide to build a five-story dwelling? Will the neighbors have a say? Why? Will the Turkish PM be the one resolving the conflict of interest here?

A couple of weeks ago, I received a letter from my city's communication and technology commission inviting me and other citizens to participate in the commission's hearing about whether to recommend to the city council the issuing of a conditional permit to Verizon, to install a new wireless cellphone tower in our neighborhood. I intend to attend this meeting, and the next. Democracy is about having a voice at the grassroots level, every day; not just about showing up at the polls, once every four years.