Florida County Puts 'Citizens First!': Focus Is Civic Engagement, Not Customer Satisfaction

By Denhardt, Robert B. | Nation's Cities Weekly, March 3, 1997 | Go to article overview

Florida County Puts 'Citizens First!': Focus Is Civic Engagement, Not Customer Satisfaction


Denhardt, Robert B., Nation's Cities Weekly


Over the past 30 to 40 years, the public's trust in government has declined dramatically. Where only a few decades ago three out of four people said that they "trusted the government in Washington to do what is right" most or all of the time, today that percentage is less than one out of four. People see their elected officials, especially those at the federal level, as being dishonest, callous, and unwilling to listen. They see the government as "out of control."

At the same time, the level of citizen interest and involvement in public affairs is being questioned. In a historic context, citizenship meant working for the common good. Yet too often today we hear people respond to public issues by saying "What's in it for me" or "Not in my backyard." Citizens are not well-educated about the operations of government nor are they well tuned in to public affairs.

An interesting and important effort to address these basic concerns has been occurring over the past year and a half in Florida. On April 4, 1995, Linda W. Chapin, the first elected County Chairman of Orange County, Florida (the county surrounding Orlando), addressed a large gathering of community leaders and volunteers. In her remarks, Chapin pointed out that success in any policy area--whether the environment, transportation, criminal justice, or schools--ultimately depends on the pride and commitment of citizens. Arguing that a rekindling of the idea of civic engagement lies at the base of all efforts to improve community life, Chapin called for a program to put "Citizens First!"

The "Citizens First" In Action

The idea of "Citizens First!" starts with the proposition that people acting as citizens must demonstrate their concern for the larger community, their commitment to matters that go beyond short term interests, and their willingness to assume personal responsibility for what happens in their neighborhoods and the community. After all, these are among the defining elements of effective and responsible citizenship.

But the "Citizens First!" theme cuts in another way. Chapin remarked, "To the extent that people are willing to assume (the role of citizens), those ... in government must be willing to listen--to put the needs and values of citizens first in our decisions and our actions. We must reach out in new and innovative ways to understand what our citizens are concerned about. And we must respond to the needs that they believe will help make a better life for themselves and their children. In other words, those of us in government must put citizens first."

Citizens, Not Customers

The idea of "Citizens First!" bears some resemblance to the efforts of many governments to improve "customer service," a theme that has become quite popular recently. But the "Citizens First!" idea recognizes the limitations of treating citizens as "customers."

The relationship between a government and its clients is not the same as that between a business and its customers. For example, the user of government services rarely pays directly for those services in an open marketplace. Moreover, the categories of internal and external customers don't complete the list potentially served by government. What about those who may need the service even though they are not actively seeking it, what about future generations of possible service recipients, and the relatives and friends of the immediate recipient? There may even be customers who don't want to be customers--such as those being given a speeding ticket!

The idea of "Citizens First!" approaches this issue by making a distinction between customer satisfaction according to a private sector model and citizen satisfaction according to a citizenship model, and suggesting that ultimately government must be more concerned with and more responsive to the needs and interests of citizens.

When people act as consumers they tend to take one approach; when they act as citizens they take another. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Florida County Puts 'Citizens First!': Focus Is Civic Engagement, Not Customer Satisfaction
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.