Can Coral Gables Really Work with its Citizens?
September 6, 2010 1 Comment
The National League of Cities provides excellent guidelines for cities, “Working Productively with 21st Century Citizens”. I was struck by the commitment and philosophy of the NLC in promoting proactive governments that engage the many citizens that feel capable and want to contribute to good and successful government and a high quality of life to their city.
Unfortunately, this approach is strange to the culture of the City of Coral Gables that incorporates only a few citizens mostly friendly to current authorities. There is a great need to expand the participation of citizens in Coral Gables, but this takes, first, a policy and commitment and, second, intensive work by the city to make it happen rather than follow perfunctory representations of community involvement through conventional, mostly powerless, boards.
Local officials in all kinds of communities are dealing with major changes in the relationship between citizens and government. Ordinary people seem more capable and more confident, but also more skeptical and even aggressive. Citizens may have less time for public life, but they often bring more knowledge and skills to the table. They feel more entitled to the services and protection of government, and yet have less faith in public officials. It seems like many citizens are more interested in governing, and less willing to be governed, than ever before. These changes can make local problem-solving and decision- making more difficult; they also can present opportunities for effective community building that will significantly enhance local governance capacity.
While city officials and commissioners may be uncomfortable with a new philosophy of engagement and participation by citizens, the process is sure to greatly strengthen the support and ideas of taxpayers and residents in the many hard decisions that will have to made in the coming years.