Six simple changes that local residents want officials to make
Most public meetings use the public hearing model. That’s where there’s one microphone and you get a couple of minutes to say “Here’s what I want.” Public hearings tend to increase conflict and reduce trust between citizens and government.
The law requires public hearings in many situations. Some officials have never seen any other type of public meeting; they think that the public always misbehaves.
We wanted to know how citizens felt about those meetings. Consensus held 20 focus groups with people from across the political spectrum. They shared their experiences at public meetings and their ideas for what should change. [Civility_Focus_Group_Summary 10 pages – Kansas City.]
The public supports elected officials who make six simple changes in how they engage the public.
- Involve people before you’ve made a decision. The earlier you involve us, the less conflict you’ll face.
- Actively recruit participants. Don’t just post an ad or send a postcard. Build networks. Reach out to us.
- Set ground rules. They help us feel safe.
- Expect more from the public. Let us help make the hard choices. Let us be citizens, not just customers of government services.
- Let us work in small groups with other citizens. We want to hear from one another and have a dialogue with people who think differently.
- As often as possible, don’t separate yourselves from citizens up on a stage, but join us as peers.