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Posted in: Columnist, Featured, Opinion

Citizens Can Help Too

Posted on May 19, 2011


Citizens empower elected officials when they defer their knowledge, wisdom and expertise to public servants, government staff and other special interest groups. Representative government is successful when the body represents the collective views of those that they stand for. But when one wavers by interjecting his or her own values and beliefs into the decisions made, or relies heavily on a select privileged few, representation collapses. 

Citizens can help by involving themselves in the decisions that have impact on their daily way of life. Just as local government entities should operate collectively as a body to make decisions, citizens must also work collaboratively to learn, research and to make recommendations on topics within our local government.

A citizen advisory commission is my vision to include citizen participation in the local government decision-making process. It facilitates more direct interaction between citizens, governmental staff and elected officials.  Citizen participation would help to efficiently implement policies, and to ensure that citizens all relevant stakeholders’ input are a key component in resolving issues pertinent to our community.

Our local government faces inadequate involvement by ill-informed constituents. Instead, well-organized and persistent interest groups dominate pitting the advocacy majority against groups that would disproportionately become affected.  Our city cannot succeed during these tough economic times without making a strong attempt to garner the support and respect from our citizenry. This can only be accomplished with the inclusion of people; encouraging them to participate as a part of a citizen advisory commission to provide advice and recommendations to the Tallahassee city commission, Leon county commission, and Leon county school board.

The idea of conveying a citizen advisory commission is not new to American local government. Due to increased authority being given to political leaders, administrators and the reliance on full-time professional staff, advisory boards have been weakened.

The goal of the program would be to engage civic-minded, grass-root individuals through a community outreach process and public consultation.  By promoting citizen and stakeholder participation, our government will be supporting a more transparent and accountable process, which will allow public officials to be well-informed and more responsive to the needs of our community.

For the program to be successful there must exist support from elected officials, which will create an enabling environment, disclose discussions on policy decisions ahead of time and facilitate citizen access to information.

Citizen involvement will lead to a more efficient and effective delivery of services to the public. This includes a more transparent and accountable government; and more importantly, public acceptance.

If you asked “What makes for a better tomorrow?”  Multiple participants, working together for a better solution, would make for a better tomorrow. Citizens can help too.

3 Responses to Citizens Can Help Too

  1. Tallymark Reply

    May 20, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Formalizing and organizing citizen input into an advisory commission would tend to sideline the participation and make it easier to ignore.  It would create a barrier that would likely harm the present system.  Commissioners could just say, “Go tell it to the citizens’ advisory commission.”  It’s better that they listen to citizen thoughts fresh from the heart.

    Right now, any citizen can address the city or  county commissions on any topic or many topics, as often as they wish.  Every public meeting of each commission has a time set for opening new topics by citizens who wish to speak.  Existing topics under current consideration can be addressed also, at the time of the commission’s involvement, by filling out a speaker slip.

    Citizens who do not wish to appear before the crowd and speak at a podium have easy access to every commissioner through email, US mail, and hand delivery of their words and thoughts.  They can also schedule appointments and speak to any commissioner, directly and privately.

    We do currently have citizen advisory groups where participants can agree to become more deeply involved in special topics that require in-depth, ongoing dialogue and not just “one-shot” sound bites.  One such example is the citizen advisory group on new procedures for the historic designation of neighborhoods.  Ten citizens were selected for their wide variety of backgrounds and interest and experience in historic preservation, and they have been examining each others’ viewpoints and striving to find fair common ground.  In spite of some very obvious manipulation by the city attorney’s office which resulted in  “packing” of the committee with zealots and private contractor representatives, there stands a good chance that the more reasonable and responsible committee members will produce a rational proposal for public review and commission review.

    I recommend, Lisa, that you follow your heart and speak your mind on those topics that interest you.  The forum is very open.  We do not need another commission, especially one with no power.

    • Geekymom Reply

      May 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm

       You obviously haven’t spoken to the commissioners at the meetings before.  It is a dog and pony show.  They make a pretense of listening to you, but in actuality, they have already made up their minds.  In the end, what happens, is that the citizens who do show and speak are lectured by the commissioners.  This administration is not interested in what the citizenry has to say.  Been there, done that, have the t-shirt.  Nicely done, Lisa!

  2. WakeUP! Reply

    June 9, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Tallymark are you out of your mind?!?!?  This local government doesn’t care what the citizens get up there and say…they continue to do what they have already agreed to do.  Have you not been abreast to the corruption that is being uncovered and how many of our public servants are intertwined with the corruption?  They have an agenda, and they will see to it that agenda gets passed.  The mayor first off, should go ahead and recuse himself from all remaining votes since he is under investigation from the FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION!!!!  The people of this city need to take their heads out of the sand and face the facts…their perfect little city to raise children with its canopy roads, and “great” parks is as corrupt as they come.  The city government has their hands in our pockets, and is lining their own pockets and their friends’ pockets with what they pull out.  Until there are enough of us to make a public stand, I feel the cycle will continue, or at least until the FBI march into city hall and put the shackles on the mayor.

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