EFFECTS OF CITIZEN PARTICIPATION IN GOVERNMENTAL DECISION- MAKING

WHILE THE ROLE OF CITIZENS AND NEIGHBORHOODS IN GOVERNMENTAL DECISION-MAKING IS NOT A PRIVILEGE BESTOWED BY RECENT LEGISLATION BUT A FUNDAMENTAL INTENT OF THE DESIGNERS OF THE FEDERAL CONSTITUTION, IT IS NONETHELESS TRUE THAT THE PROBLEM OF CITIZEN PARTICIPATION HAS BECOME ACUTE IN THE PAST 10--15 YEARS, PARTICULARLY IN MODEL CITIES PROGRAMS. THERE IS NO SINGLE MODEL FOR EFFICIENT INVOLVEMENT OF CITIZENS IN PLANNING AND DECISION-MAKING. THE AUTHOR, WHO IS ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT TO THE MAYOR OF CHICAGO, DRAWS ON A VARIETY OF PROGRAMS IN CHICAGO TO DESCRIBE THE MYTHS ABOUT CITIZEN PARTICIPATION AND TO SUGGEST MAJOR TYPES OF PARTICIPATION MODELS. THE MYTHS ARE THE FOLLOWING: (1) IN EVERY COMMUNITY THERE ARE TWO GROUPS---THE CITIZENS AND THE ESTABLISHMENT---AND THE CITIZENS SPEAK WITH ONE VOICE. (2) MERELY BECAUSE PEOPLE LIVE IN A NEIGHBORHOOD THEY THEREFORE HAVE BETTER INSIGHT INTO SOLUTIONS OF PROBLEMS AFFECTING THEIR AREA THAN DO OTHER PERSONS, ESPECIALLY PROFESSIONALS. (IN FACT, THE ALIENATION ASSOCIATED WITH BEDROOM COMMUNITIES CREATES A SITUATION IN WHICH PROGRESSIVELY FEWER RESIDENTS KNOW THE DYNAMICS OF THEIR COMMUNITIES.) (3) POOR PEOPLE OF ALL COLORS ARE INCAPABLE OF INTELLIGENT CONTRIBUTIONS TO PLANNING AND DECISION-MAKING. (4) CREATION OF FORMAL CITIZEN STRUCTURES IS INHERENTLY THE BEST APPROACH TO PUBLIC PARTICIPATION. (IN FACT, SUCH STRUCTURES OFTEN BECOME STAGNANT AFTER A VERY BRIEF TIME, AND THERE IS A DYNAMIC WITHIN THE STRUCTURE THAT HAS THE EFFECT OF OBSCURING THE REAL CONSENSUS OF THE COMMUNITY AND SUPPLANTING IT WITH A NEW VIEW THAT EMERGES AS A RESULT OF THE DYNAMIC AT WORK WITHIN THE ADVISORY GROUP.) (5) NEIGHBORHOOD ELECTIONS ARE ALL THAT IS REQUIRED TO ASSURE THAT ALL VIEWS OF THE COMMUNITY ARE REPRESENTED IN THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS. (A MIXED SYSTEM OF ELECTIONS AND APPOINTMENTS, IN WHICH A RESPONSIVE ELECTED OFFICIAL SUCH AS A MAYOR IS CHARGED WITH AND HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR DESIGNATION OF GROUPS REPRESENTING EVERY CONCEIVABLE RANGE OF INTERESTS, IS PREFERABLE.) (6) IT IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE TO HAVE FULL PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN LOCALLY ELECTED OFFICIALS AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION GROUPS. (IN FACT, THERE IS AN INHERENT INEQUALITY DERIVING FROM THE OFFICIALS' LEGAL AUTHORITY AND RESPONSIBILITY AND THEIR CONCERN WITH THE LARGER CONSEQUENCES OF CONTEMPLATED ACTIONS.) (7) THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, IN DECLARING THAT CITIZEN PARTICIPATION MUST BE A PART OF MORE PROGRAMS, KNOWS WHAT IT WANTS. ON THE SUBJECT OF MODELS, THE AUTHOR CONSTRUCTS THREE: A CONFLICT MODEL, A "COP-OUT" MODEL, AND A COALITION MODEL. WHILE EFFECTIVE IN SINGLE CASES, THE FIRST OF THESE, WHICH SAUL ALINSKY HAS BUILT INTO THE MOST PROMINENT AMONG TYPES OF PUBLIC PARTICIPATION, BUILDS ANTAGONISM BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND COMMUNITIES AND ALSO TENDS TO SAP THE VITALITY OF THE COMMUNITY ONCE THE IIMMEDIATE ISSUE HAS PASSED. IN THE SECOND MODEL, THE GOVERNMENT HAS KNOWINGLY OR INADVERTENTLY GIVEN MONEY TO A COMMUNITY IN SUCH A WAY AS TO FOSTER INTERNAL FRICTION AND DISSENSION, RESULTING IN NO CITIZEN INPUT. THE THIRD MODEL, WHICH THE AUTHOR ESPOUSES, IS CHARACTERIZED BY AN INTERNAL STRUGGLE OF GROUPS UNDER THE PURVIEW OF THE GOVERNMENT, WHICH ASSUMES THE LEADERSHIP ROLE, ACKNOWLEDGES THE NEED TO SEEK COMPROMISE AND SHARE POWER, AND PROMOTES THAT COMPROMISE.

Media Info

  • Media Type: Print
  • Pagination: pp 1-5
  • Monograph Title: Social, Economic, and Environmental Factors of Transportation
  • Serial:

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00200497
  • Record Type: Publication
  • ISBN: 0309019692
  • Files: TRIS, TRB
  • Created Date: Mar 7 1972 12:00AM