As Mayor Ballard approaches his fifteeth “Mayor’s Night Out,” Tonya Beeler, a former Mayor’s Neighborhood Liasion to the Near Eastside, suggests another way for citizens to approach these community engagement pieces.
Community engagement . . . the perfect democratic ideal. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work. Our government acts to create laws and provide services to benefit us, the community. I mean, that’s the idea right? So it only makes sense that the community should have a say. And every well-meaning government official really wants us to have a say too.
|What if, instead of hearing from complaining citizens, the Mayor heard from handfuls of people that were focused on one particular problem, and offered a solution?|
It’s not for lack of trying. Mayor Ballard is nearing his 50th Mayor’s Night Out in 5 years. He follows a good rule of community engagement – he goes out into the community to hear what we have to say. He answers our questions, listens to concerns and he has a pretty amazing follow-up protocol to make sure that each citizen that speaks up at these events gets their concern investigated. But, in my dream world, we wouldn’t come to these events just to complain about problems.
What if we came to these events prepared with solutions to our problems? What if, instead of hearing from complaining citizens, the Mayor heard from handfuls of people that were focused on one particular problem, and offered a solution?
What if, instead of having the same people show up each year at these events, he invited a new group of citizens to speak to him directly about a particular problem? What if the end result of that meeting was a white paper that his cabinet would investigate more deeply? What if the cabinet could promise to report back to the public with their findings and recommendations? What if Mayor Ballard’s administration followed that protocol 30 times in the next three years?
A recent Pew Research Council survey says that nearly three-fourths of all Americans don’t trust the Federal Government. I wonder what those same people would say about their local government. I wonder if they believe that their local government is acting in their best interest. If they don’t believe, it’s my guess that they feel like they are not engaged in the decisions that are made for their community.
What would get you engaged in our local government?