Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions
What is the current situation?
Elected officials are charged with managing and leading the city. On a daily basis, community leaders make decisions on issues ranging from repairing potholes to developing major economic development strategies for the city. In addition, most elected officials are serving their communities on a volunteer basis and have full-time jobs in addition to their civic duties. So with an ever-growing list of items to address and a very limited time frame, officials often do not often have time to organize public input sessions or focus groups or survey the general public for every issue that arises.
In some instances, issues arise that garner more attention in the public’s eye than others. Elected officials can attract a tremendous amount of criticism when the general public feels as though decisions were made without their input. This can create a very difficult situation for the leaders.
Public outcry is commonly seen with issues related to growth, development, and planning. Citizens are often very defensive about decisions that will impact their property or development in general. When making decisions related to planning policies, it is crucial that the public be well informed about the intentions and goals of the policy. Often the public only hears about the “what,” such as the rezoning, new ordinance, or new policy. They are typically unaware of the reasoning behind the change or the “why.”
When establishing a long-term vision related to growth and development within a community, it is imperative that the citizens are involved in the process. Encouraging a collaborative environment between the residents, developers, and elected officials allows for the development of a long-term plan that will be sustainable. When the entire community is involved in establishing the vision, the implementation of that vision can outlast the ever-changing elected leadership.
Elected officials should create opportunities for public discussions about various topics and should value the input of their constituents. Not only should the policy changes be outlined, but more importantly the reasons behind them and why the changes are important to the long-term sustainability of the community should be outlined. When citizens understand the “end state” that is trying to be achieved, they will be more likely to support the initiatives. However, when they feel like the local government is simply trying to impose new rules and laws to stifle growth and development, they will be much more likely to oppose those measures.