Manhattan Beach City Council - Distrust, Diminishmet, and Disengagement of the Public

Manhattan Beach residents should note and applaud Hermosa Beach’s continued “Community Dialogue,” a “public engagement” process whereby elected officials are encouraging Hermosans to influence critical decisions on priorities and revenue generation. Through outreach, consultation, and creative consensus building dynamics, Hermosa Beach is promoting empowerment of residents and consultative democracy.

In contrast, Manhattan Beach has eschewed public engagement. Its elected officials rely on formalized “public participation” characterized by one-way communication patronizing residents into impotency rather than public deliberation and sustained problem solving.

Cities and counties throughout California are recognizing the benefits of public engagement including better identification of the public’s values, ideas, and recommendations; more fully informed citizens; improved decision-making and implementation; greater ability to overcome obstacles; and, heightened policy unanimity and support.

For Hermosans, the process is benefiting the building of their unique community identity rather than wanting “to be like Manhattan Beach” or “become Rodeo Drive at the beach.”

Edward C. Caprielian, Ph.D.

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