Citizen Participation in Resource Allocation

By William Simonsen; Mark D. Robbins | Go to book overview

lated from direct citizen entreaty. Local governments have made, or have been caused to make, greater strides toward the incorporation of a citizen view in their endeavors. The methods of so-called direct democracy are but one example. Certainly, the advent of the community action agencies in cities throughout the country in the 1960s changed the nature of the relationship between local citizen groups and their governments. Although the immediate effect may have been substantive and resource focused, the enduring contribution of these regimes may lie in the legacy of tolerance for direct citizen influence in certain areas of government.

The earliest extrarepresentational techniques for citizen participation briefly discussed in this chapter (public hearings, advisory committees, and citizen agencies) are typically responses to statutes or other authorities that cause them to be put into use. None of them are routes to forming a valid representation of the will of citizens at large. Citizen agencies, in the form of the community action programs became, in many ways, authorities of their own. Nonetheless, all represent efforts to fill a citizen gap widened by the growing population, the size of the government, and innovations in techniques to infuse the decision-making process with moneyed interests.

De Tocqueville worried that the fancy of the public was too easily captured by popular issues, thus creating circumstances in which important government obligations could be neglected. As it turns out, it is difficult to determine how one might gauge what neglect is benign and what reflects an abdication of government responsibility. Parties with different interests are unlikely to agree on the criteria. Citizens may simultaneously subscribe to associations with different positions on the same issue.

The modern results of the search for citizen participation may not have satisfied the critics of burgeoning democracy. They reflect the struggles of this democracy to find, in administering the public will, methods to ensure a connection to the preferences of the citizen. Such methods may make democratic government more vulnerable to fashion than are other forms. The hope is that they also help to reinforce the trust in and legitimacy of a government that must provide services to a profoundly eclectic electorate. In the chapters that follow, we explore some contemporary and innovative techniques of citizen involvement in government administration and evaluate their potential merits.


Notes
1.
There exist different uses of the terms individualist and collectivist. We use them here to be consistent with Kweit and Kweit ( 1981) in referring to a public interest defined by aggregated individual desires versus a public interest defined by a concern for the broader public good. We are not attempting to evoke allusions to

-19-

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Citizen Participation in Resource Allocation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Figures and Tables ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Notes xx
  • 1 - Theoretical and Historical Context of Public Participation 1
  • Notes 19
  • 2 - Contemporary Techniques for Citizen Involvement 21
  • Notes 42
  • 3 - How Do (citizens Balance the Budget? 45
  • Notes 70
  • 4 - How Fiscal Information and Service Use Influence Citizen Preferences 71
  • Notes 112
  • 5 - Conclusions: Lessons for Governments 115
  • Appendices 125
  • References 163
  • Index 173
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