At Strong Towns: “The surprising difficulty our towns face when it comes to the basic task of informing residents about public meetings.”


As we’ve seen countless times in the past, it begins with a measure of authenticity (often lacking in New Albanian ruling circles) with regard to genuinely desiring public input.

It extends through fiascoes like the famous potted Mt. Tabor project final gathering (above), when the city engineer finally mustered the candor to concede that decisions already had been made, but please, speak as much as you like so we can go home.

Time and again, Team Gahan has indicated its preference for pre-determined outcomes over give-and-take. There’s a simple solution: #FireGahan2019


Last week, I shared my frustrations about how hard it is to find out about public meetings in my city. I was overwhelmed by how many people responded to the piece. Some shared similar concerns. Others offered their perspective on these challenges as government employees themselves. Today, I want to review this conversation about the surprising difficulty our towns face when it comes to the basic task of informing residents about public meetings, and talk about some concrete solutions based on everyone’s feedback.

  • 1. Requirements to publish public meeting notices in the local paper are very outdated.
  • 2. Communicating in a variety of media is helpful, but it can also confuse people.
  • 3. Restrictions on government communication make this whole process harder.
  • 4. Some people just don’t think residents want to be involved.

To basics:

This whole discussion is about an incredibly basic thing: Making sure residents know about public meetings that are being held so they can get information and provide their input. We haven’t even touched on the issue of how meetings are held: where and when, what sort of transportation is available, what sort of childcare is provided, etc. — all of which have a tremendous impact on the ability of residents to really participate in local decision-making. (Check out these two articles for more on that.) But I think if we can’t even get the communication aspect right, we don’t have any hope of getting the access, timing and location right.

One of the core tenets of a Strong Towns approach is that you can’t build a strong city or town without strong citizens. Let’s figure out how to keep those citizens informed about what’s happening in their community so they can be part of making it better.