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New Research Examines Public Participation in Local Government Decision Making and Suggests Approaches for Improvement

May 21, 2013
Are you frustrated about who shows up at public meetings — or, more importantly, who doesn’t? You’re not alone. A new survey of more than 1400 public officials and local community leaders in California reveals both groups feel that public comment agendas are dominated by narrow interests and negative remarks.
The Institute for Local Government (ILG) partnered with Public Agenda on the research that indicates that public meetings often do not meet the needs of residents or local officials, and that large segments of the public are often missing from these venues —especially low-income populations, immigrants and young people.

The good news is that both local public officials and their counterparts in the community seem to share a commitment to bridge the disconnect. Public officials as well as community leaders seek broader public engagement and stronger collaboration and feel that opportunities are available to expand public participation, especially in the areas of budgets, economic development and long-term community planning.

A printable infographic highlights the research findings and recommendations. Download the full reports, “Testing the Waters” research with local officials, and the executive summary as well “Beyond Business as Usual,” research with community leaders, and the companion executive summary.
Also, see how to make recurring public meetings a more welcoming, accessible and effective venue to hear from a broader cross-section of your communities. Resources that have been co-created with city officials can be found at ILG’s Meeting Resource Center and the Public Participation Resource Center, which also provide case stories of successful collaborations between cities and community leaders and a broad array of tools in Spanish.

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