Rising income inequality is a growing concern in the United States, undermining economic mobility and civic trust. A majority of Americans believe income inequality is a significant problem that needs policy solutions, but what if the continued widening gap between the haves and the have nots restricts the ability of citizens to propose remedies? Income inequality at local levels may weaken citizens belief and engagement in political institutions and undermine one of the hallmarks of American democracy – citizen participation.
In a research article recently published in the American Review of Public Administration, I addressed those concerns using a survey of small and mid-sized American cities to see how changes in income inequality within those communities impacted whether citizens participate in decision making with several government departments (policy, city and parks, economic development, budgeting, and the mayor).
I am Josh Rosenstein and I am a second year UNC-Chapel Hill MPA student getting ready to graduate from the School of Government. I usually blog over at MPA Matters, but it is a real pleasure to get to write a guest post over here about I topic I love and care about: community engagement.
In my role as an associate professor at the School of Government, I often find myself leading discussions with various groups on the topic of public engagement. Just within the last couple of months I have spoken with numerous current and future government officials about public engagement practice, including:
a local elected official here in Chapel Hill,
several local government staff members from various communities here in North Carolina,
dozens of MPA students, many of which are current public service practitioners, and
a group of government officers from India.
I also read a lot about and conduct research on various aspects of public engagement. With that in mind, there are some overarching observations or principles that I keep coming back to that I’d like to share here on the blog. Continue Reading
For those outside Colorado, it may come as some surprise that one of the state’s hardest-fought legislative battles of the past few years – one that should finally conclude this week – involves incentives for condominium construction. As unsexy as “construction defects reform” sounds, it is emblematic of how much of a hot-button issue affordable housing is across The Centennial State. This is especially true along the Front Range, which is home to seven of the nation’s 12 counties where affordable housing is at its lowest-ever level.
I recently moved to the Town of Cary from a rural area in Western North Carolina. To say that things are different would likely be the understatement of the year; Cary has over 155,000 people at last count, and my hometown had about 2,500.
My family and I shifted from one of the smallest towns in the state to the seventh largest. That’s a process that will make you pay attention to the differences between where you’re coming from, and where you’re going.
It highlights the need for advocates of citizen engagement to provide more nuanced and custom approaches to citizen engagement that can work for both rural and urban communities – where there are often different cultural norms, values, and lifestyles. Continue Reading
It’s a great icebreaker for public servants. The next time you’re talking with someone who works in local or state government, ask about unrelated phone calls and emails. Almost every week (or day in some cases), public sector employees will field requests for information that have no connection to their organization.
The first time I heard of this was in the 1990s when some 911 dispatchers in a rural county near Raleigh told me how busy Friday nights were. For the most part, the calls weren’t emergencies; they were mostly questions about high school football scores. Driving directions were also a popular request. Continue Reading
On March 15th the city of Fayetteville votes on the Parks and Recreation Bond Referendum. The referendum is for a 35 million dollar bond and intended to improve the city’s infrastructure by renovating recreation facilities across the city. Continue Reading
Have you ever met a fascinating person who engages you with probing questions, thoughtful commentary and interesting facts? The two of you then embark on a lively conversation where you might gain or give a different perspective and learn something new. When parting ways, you’ve probably said, “Let’s keep in touch” and exchanged contact information. This is the dynamic that the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) looks to create with the public. Continue Reading
The presidential primary season has drawn considerable attention to the issue of young voters and what appears to be their overwhelming support for Bernie Sanders. On my campus students are engaging in debate watch parties, are organizing voter registration drives, and a small group of around twenty students, both Republican and Democratic, are having the experience of a lifetime in a program called Wake the Vote, which has taken them already to Iowa and New Hampshire and later in the year will give them the opportunity to attend the conventions. These kinds of experiences translate into participation at the polls. An organization that studies the political participation of young people (CIRCLE) reports that 70% of the youth votes (18-24) cast were cast by young people with at least some college experience. Clearly, activities that provide students with the opportunity to get engaged in the political process are powerful motivators for voting.
When people find a purposeful passion for an issue, they are more likely to engage in matters related to that issue, both socially and politically.
As communities become more competent and public awareness is raised, there are moments when there becomes a need to create programs that challenge public policies perceived to marginalize the disadvantaged.
I recently read a book by Leonard Jason, Principles of Social Change, where he provides five principles for social change that transform passion into action which include: