The construction crisis in Manhattan Beach stems from the failure of prior Manhattan Beach City Councils (MBCC) to promote the public interest rather than the interests of the real estate lobby (i.e., developers, architects, contractors, and realtors). Instead, it has resulted in development conflicting with MBCC’s mission to “preserving our small beach town character” – but rather destruction in our quality of life (See, “Increase in residential construction has neighbors shaken up,” The Beach Reporter, August 8 and “Council addresses shoring, building issues, Easy Reader, August 8).
The failure to promote the public interest generates voter apathy and lack of civic involvement resulting from a sense of impotency. An antidote is employment by the present MBCC of public engagement interventions to empower residents in the deliberation of public policymaking along with the ownership and commitment to make those policies successful.
A resident significantly impacted by a major neighborhood construction project appeared before the MBCC pleading for its intervention. Yet, the same resident rejected the responsibility of the MBCC to promote civic engagement writing to me stating:
“… [A] few weeks ago you wrote of voter apathy and seemed to blame it on City Council's behavior. I believe our local voter apathy is based on self-centered APATHY…Our residents are too interested in throwing parties in their mcmansions, earning money to pay for their mcmansions, showing off their BMW's and designer duds, taking Johnny to soccer practice, etc. Think about how many garages you pass with the Beach Reporter lying outside all week. City Council's fault?”
The resident is not alone. In a survey of elected officials, 87% viewed the public as disengaged but overall valuing yet cautious of deliberative processes. Therefore, are we in a “chicken or egg” quandary? How do we ensure the MBCC is meeting its governance responsibilities to promote our overall community’s public interest?
Perhaps the answer is inherent in approximately only 20% of those registered voting in our municipal elections meaning each member of the MBCC did “not” receive votes by over 80% of registered voters. Representative government? No way!
Edward C. Caprielian, Ph.D. Manhattan Beach