Citizen engagement involves much more than public participation. In Manhattan Beach, public participation is a one-way dialogue including public hearings at city council meetings and town hall meetings. Residents are not empowered to make constructive “effective” recommendations (i.e. those likely to obtain city council approval) based on parameters established by the council.
It takes deliberate work by local governments to develop plans for engagement, understand the purposes of engagement, and deliver opportunities for meaningful community engagement.
The highly respected International City/County Management Association (ICMA) offers webinars to explore what it takes to cultivate real citizen engagement in our community, One, scheduled for October 24, ”Citizen Engagement Beyond the Public Hearing: Creative Strategies and Best Practices,” should be viewed our council members and staff to learn:
- The true meaning of citizen engagement.
- Goals and outcomes of citizen engagement.
- Barriers to engagement and how to overcome them.
- Trends, strategies, and best practices for engagement.
Mayor David Lesser established citizen engagement one of his top priorities during his term as mayor. To this date, he has failed to implement any efforts and his term in office expires in December. Rather, under his “leadership,” opportunities for public participation, open government, and transparency have diminished. It is time for the Manhattan Beach City Council to “walk the talk” of citizen engagement or confess to its hypocrisy.