Next Wave of People Power

Started by Amanda_931, February 15, 2007, 10:42:13 AM

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Might this answer some of the objections people have about "The Gummint" and what It--or They are doing to us?

I don't know how the public forum in Nashville has done since I left the area, but its meetings really did attract the powers that be there.

by Matt Leighninger

QuoteSteve Burkholder , the mayor of Lakewood, Colorado, couldn't figure it out. Lakewood's local government had won all sorts of awards for good management, and surveys showed that residents thought he was doing a great job, yet the city budget was going into the red because proposals for sales tax increases (the main source of city revenue in Colorado) had been voted down nine times in the last 30 years. "If people value the services we provide," wondered Burkholder, "why won't they give us the revenue we need to provide them?" Lakewood seemed to be the utopia nobody wanted to pay for.

Then Burkholder got an answer. At a public meeting, someone in the audience piped up and said, "Look, we know you're working hard for us, but what we've got here is a parent-child relationship between the government and the people. What we need is an adult-adult relationship."

This sums up what has been happening in communities all over North America over the last 12 years: a dramatic, generational shift in what people want from their democracy.

In Lakewood and most other places, the relationship between ordinary people and their local government is changing. Citizens may have less time for public life, but they bring more knowledge and skills to the table. They feel more entitled to the services and protection of government, and yet have less faith that government will be able to deliver on those promises. They are less connected to community affairs, yet they seem better able to find the information, allies and resources they need to affect an issue or decision they care about. At the beginning of the 21st century, citizens seem better at governing and worse at being governed than ever before.

On the other side of this divide, public officials and other leaders are tired of confrontation and desperate for resources. In order to address persistent challenges like education, race relations, crime prevention, land use planning and economic development, communities have been forced to find new ways for people and public servants to work together.

Hundreds of these civic experiments—some successful, some not—have emerged in the last 15 years. Local leaders are recruiting large, diverse numbers of people and involving them in small, deliberative groups, big action forums and ongoing structures like neighborhood councils.