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

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Does the turbulence surrounding the proposed development of the Manhattan Village Mall symbolize a malady potentially culminating in the demise of our City Council’s stated mission “to preserve our small beach town character?”

Lapses by prior city councils – by failing to establish the necessary principles, parameters, and practices for our sustainable economic growth and land use development – are primarily responsible for this threatened outcome.

It is not an issue of “pro-growth” or “anti-growth,” but “smart growth.” Principles reflecting smart growth are if the mall modernization strengthens our distinctive unique community identity; protects our neighborhoods; recognizes the symbiosis between economic viability and quality of life; and, promotes our city’s commitment to safeguarding our environment.

Our Manhattan Beach City Council must provide the leadership to ensure incorporation of these principles into the various elements of a revitalized mall. Public hearings have produced more heat than light. (“Manhattan Village expansion project makes small progress,” ER, November 14)

Consequently, it will require extraordinary public engagement, deliberation, and consensus building by our councilmembers to generate the necessary innovative collaboration to produce win-win results rather than compromised principles ending in outcomes that are lose-lose.

Is the envisioned Manhattan Village Mall our “line in the sand” challenging our community’s integrity? If it fails, is it a point beyond which it opens up a floodgate of inappropriate business development inconsistent with the mainstream interests of our residents rather than narrow special interests? The effectiveness of the Manhattan Beach City Council’s principle-centered leadership will determine the outcome of these fateful challenges.

Edward C. Caprielian, Ph.D. Manhattan Beach

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Editor Daily Breeze

Re: “Meetings to focus on residents’ priorities,” (Daily Breeze, December 11, 2013)

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.

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. Manhattan Beach

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Manhattan Beach Should Look To Hermosa

Editor Daily Breeze

Re: “Meetings to focus on residents’ priorities,” (Daily Breeze, December 11, 2013)

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.

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. Manhattan Beach

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