Author Archives: Allez BXL!

About Allez BXL!

From the Chocolate City to a city of chocolate.

More Delays to Clean Water Access in Flint

Flint’s task of rectifying the negative impacts stemming from its water contamination crisis continues to leave the city’s citizens desperate for solutions. On top of that, they have become increasingly aware of how little information they receive about why Flint’s elected officials make certain decisions.

This feeling is especially salient in the face of recent news from Flint Mayor Karen Weaver that citizens should expect it will be another two years before Flint can produce its own clean water. Luckily, Flint residents have a better chance of getting what they want thanks to federal requirements from the EPA that require the city to involve citizens in the process of deciding the city’s primary and back-up water sources. Tactics to date include community conversations, mailings, press releases, publication distribution, and presentations at state and city committee meetings.

Notably, its pending community engagement strategy is to gather cost and technical feasibility details from potential providers and then facilitate public participation. Specifically, residents will be encouraged to share their opinions on the alternatives being considered – they do this either by attending a town hall meeting, by email, or in writing.

It remains to be seen how many citizens take advantage of this opportunity to be part of the decision-making process. With nearly half of Flint households lacking access to internet, one can surmise that neither email nor town hall participation are likely to host significant attendance. Nevertheless, this community engagement example demonstrates not only the value of gaining resident buy-in at the outset of a public administration decision, but it also shows the power federal agencies can have in requiring participation when local governments fail to make decisions that are in the interest of their citizens.

Bringing All Oregonians to the Table

In sharp contrast to how government institutions and individual citizens alike managed the notion of community engagement just fifty years ago, the contemporary practice of community engagement is marked by transparency, pathways to government accountability, and ultimately a sense of partnership and collaboration. Creating this open environment requires reforming not only how the public gains information about policy discussions, but ensuring they understand the complexities and inherent tradeoffs baked into the policy-making process.

By tackling public engagement with this lens, the civic participation experiment known as Oregon’s Kitchen Table works to tackle the challenges associated with collaborative governance by maintaining various in-person and digital platforms for connecting policymakers with their constituents and promoting a feedback loop between both parties.

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