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Thread: Citizen Involvement

  1. #1
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Citizen Involvement

    Our city fields a lot of calls about new development, particularly the mall going in next to a failing mall. Citizens call, write into the local newspaper, and complain in person about this development, other developments, and our design standards (or lack thereof). While all this complaining goes on, many public meetings/hearings and forums continue with little attendance. We have design standard in the works for non residential development, where only the main developers/architects showed at the public meetings to discuss the standards, no citizens. Yet as I stated above, they complain in the paper and to us that we aren't doing anything.
    Is this common? How many of you have large citizen involvement and how many have little involvement/high number of complaints like me.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    I imagine it's pretty common. When I participated in some regional visioning workshops, most of the folks there were in planning in some fashion -- city mayors, planning board members, etc. Then there were a few cantakerous old people who seemed to make a hobby of such things but were not well informed. I was the only person there who did not fit one of those two categories: I was a student in my 30's, so I was half the age of most of the citizen participants there and I was better informed than they were (I am pursuing a planning-related degree: Environmental Resource Management with a concentration in Land Use Planning and Policy).

  3. #3
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    My experience is that unless you have a major NIMBY/LULU proposal, the public doesn't come out. Yet somehow, they always find the time to call and complain.

    I think there are a variety of reasons for the phenomenon.

    People get home from work and would rather spend time with families.

    Bedroom communities--people don't really identify with the city their house is in; they identify more with its larger neighbor where they probably work.

    I've found that in a lot of cases people simply don't trust the elected officials to listen to them.

    Also, in many cases people care, but not enough to sit through one of those exciting meetings.

    I think people are more apt to pick up the phone and complain because they feel like it gives them a certain degree of anonymity.

    We have pretty good turnout at our meetings, but that is mainly because of a controversial election and the frequent occurance of yelling matches between people. It is actually common for people to refer to attending Council meetings as "going to the circus".

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  4. #4

    forgot one thing

    SR, you forgot one reason people turn out. Personal animosity. In a small town, this is quite common.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Do you hold the meetings at a neighborhood venue that is convenient for the possibly interested parties? We always try to find a church, school, whatever, that is in the affected area, rather than making citizens drive 30 min. or more across the county to our building.

    Are letters mailed to the property owners, or meeting notice signs posted in their neighborhood? If the meeting is only advertised in the paper, lots of folks won't see it or realize it relates to their area.

  6. #6
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nighthawk1959
    SR, you forgot one reason people turn out. Personal animosity. In a small town, this is quite common.
    Oh yeah, good call on that one! I definitely have a lot of that going on in my town! I'm half-tempted to post an audio file from one of our meetings!

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  7. #7
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman
    I'm half-tempted to post an audio file from one of our meetings!

    Do it! That would be cool.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  8. #8
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    You nailed that one....

    Quote Originally posted by nighthawk1959
    SR, you forgot one reason people turn out. Personal animosity. In a small town, this is quite common.
    Great Point In my experience, about half of all attendees at meetings, that are not applicants, are there because of some personal animosity. Examples:

    1. Had a guy in on city that attended every City Council meeting because of a feud with the City over sidewalks.
    2. Person that attends every meeting to get a two year headstart campaigning against their opponent...whom they hate....
    3. People that hate hate hate government of all types and kinds.....and complain about anything and everything, even emergency services and infrastructure improvements....
    4. See # 3 above (certainly in the mountain west)
    Skilled Adoxographer

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    We just re-zoned a section of town to try to lay the groundwork for revitalizing a traditional downtown. We used both high tech - a discussion group on Yahoo! and low tech spaghetti supper. The old yankee tradition of feeding people to get them to listen to you worked - 135 people turned out. And I saw most of those same faces at town meeting three weeks later!
    Planning is much like acting, as my old theater professor used to say, "If you sin, sin boldly, only you know if you are ad libbing." I follow this adage almost daily.

  10. #10

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    Ditto on the importance of food. I just did a dessert bar, and have had great luck with pizza, barbecues, etc.

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