Richard C. Rich
Neighborhood planning is most effective when carried out as an ongoing process of interaction between residents and planning officials. The creation of neighborhood councils is one widely used technique for involving citizens in this process. This chapter evaluates the efficacy of officially recognized neighborhood councils in mobilizing citizen participation, obtaining representative input for planning decisions, and providing residents with opportunities to influence local government's policy. This evaluation is based on data from sample surveys and interviews with public officials and community leaders in four U.S. cities. Each of these cities' neighborhood council programs is typical of one of the major types of neighborhood council programs found in other cities. The results suggest that while neighborhood councils have a potential for improving local governance, existing programs include a variety of organizational and operational barriers to the realization of that potential. The councils included in this study generally do not engender widespread participation or provide a sound basis for representation of neighborhold preferences. The chapter concludes with a series of policy recommendations designed to increase participation, enhance representativeness, and make neighborhood councils more effective mechanisms for resident control of neighborhood conditions.