Has the dog caught the bus?

Great article this month in the magazine Governing. It talks about public participation in government decision-making and the promises and drawbacks of technology.

No longer limited to the "one meeting at one time and if you miss it, too bad," today's technology creates exciting new opportunities for the public to voice its opinion on issues. The challenge to government is figuring out a way to harness all the input. As an official in Austin, Tex., put it:


“When you have 10 people,” says Stoll, “they can discuss things in depth to their heart’s content. But if you have 18,000, you have to figure out how to manage those numbers. We hadn’t really thought about the consequences of having that many people involved. It’s like, what does happen when the dog catches the bus?”
The article notes that some citizens have been scared off from public meetings because of "the harangues, the parade of the same dozen faces at every public meeting, the angry exchanges." Some say that rather than make meetings better, the 3-minute limit on public comments may foster this toxic atmosphere. Says a civic engagement professor at Pepperdine University,
"We’ve heard public-sector officials say, 'Wait, this three-minutes-at-a-microphone is enabling the behavior and inviting the kind of participation we’ve been seeking to avoid.’ That means the people aren’t necessarily the problem. Maybe it’s the process that needs changing.”
Take a moment to read the article. It's worth it!  

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