We need more citizen participation at the local government level. The National Research Center (NRC), a firm that conducts citizen surveys for more than 200 communities, compiled data on the types of residents who are most active. Overall, only 19 percent of Americans recently surveyed contacted their local elected officials over a 12-month period, while about a quarter reported attending a public meeting.
According to the NRC survey data individuals living in a community for more than 10 years are about three times more likely to attend public meetings and contact elected officials than new residents. Among racial groups, Asians tend to have the lowest participation rates. Low-income residents are not as active as those earning six-figure incomes. The citizen engagement in most communities revolves around planning and zoning issues.
Those under the age of 35 attend meetings and contact elected officials at far lower rates than those over 35. Only 1 percent of citizens attend a local public meeting two to four times per month.Seventy six percent of citizens have never attended a local public meeting.
In an effort to encourage more citizen involvement some communities are holding online town hall meetings. More than 500 residents in Rancho Cordova, California, visited an online interactive forum to make or review public statements regarding residents raising chickens on their properties. When the city drafted a proposed ordinance it was emailed to forum subscribers. Other communities are utilizing Facebook and Twitter as a way to inform and obtain feedback from residents.
You can check out some of the statistical data that the National Research Center has obtained regarding citizen involvement with local government from the article below:
I have contacted many local elected officials by email to share ideas and express my opinion on various issues. It is shocking to me how few elected officials respond to my emails. A simple “thanks for contacting me” reply would be nice but 99 percent of the time, I do not receive any response, which certainly does not encourage further communication.
What steps do you think local governments can take to encourage more citizen involvement?