Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Strengthening Local Governance through Civic Engagement

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Strengthening Local Governance through Civic Engagement

Article excerpt

A need to strengthen local governance through resident engagement is causing city officials to find new ways to involve the public in the local government process.

The topic is resonating with many city officials who are concerned about the lack of civic engagement in local affairs and the implications for cities.

Seemingly frustrated with prevailing arrangements, many local leaders have put a new emphasis on mobilizing citizens to make decisions, overcome conflicts, and solve critical public problems. In the process, the concept of "democratic governance" has become clearer and more prominent.

Last year, NLC created the CityFutures Panel on Democratic Governance to support local officials seeking to effectively engage citizens in responding to their cities' daunting challenges and promising opportunities.

The panel's deliberations have led to a publication outlining the need for more democratic governance in cities entitled "The Rise of Democratic Governance: How Local Leaders are Reshaping Politics for the 21st Century." A Leadership Training Institute seminar of the same name was held in New Orleans in April.

"My experience both as a city council member and mayor confirms that often people are cynical about local government and officials and have developed a sense of 'us' versus 'them' instead of 'we,'" said Lakewood, Colo., Mayor Steve Burkholder, past chair of the Democratic Governance Panel. "The longer you serve, the more you realize that you can be more successful if you involve citizens in ways that go beyond voting. We seem to be moving toward a different kind of system, in which working directly with citizens may be just as important as representing their interest."

Engaging residents and their government is part of a broader effect to bridge citizens and their communities, and to connect communities and success. …

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