Below is a blog article that I wrote last August which challenges the way local government works in the United States. There certainly are issues in our community that have to be addressed, but not everything is the responsibility of local government to solve. Why should we need local government telling residents to pick up trash from their yard or mow the grass? Shouldn’t that be the responsibility of the person living at that address? Unfortunately, some residents do not heed their citizen responsibilities.
I think most people would agree that local government should not be involved in solving every problem within the community nor try to regulate every aspect of our lives. At some point, the community as a whole needs to challenge those that create problems within the community and support the efforts of local government to correct issues that the community views as problems.
That being said, the City of Piqua does have an important role in code enforcement and is in the process of hiring a Code Compliance Coordinator to enforce the ordinances applying to building code, nuisance, and junk vehicles throughout the city. This will be the first such position employed for this purpose for several years. The position will be traveling daily throughout the city looking for code violations. As these violations are processed and enforced, the community needs to stand behind and support these actions to ensure the violations are corrected. Without the support of the community, the likelihood of correcting these obvious problems will falter from pressure that local government is again overreaching it’s authority. The real success and effectiveness of this effort lies with the community.
A recent article by Ed Everett – Senior Fellow at the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement of Pepperdine University – Today’s Local Government Management Model…It’s broken, so let’s fix it, proposes a new model for local government management.
Mr. Everett states that most local governments operate under the “Bitch and Fix” model. Residents gripe and the elected body and local government manager believe the issue has to be fixed. As a result, local governments take on more responsibility than they should and residents do not accept their share of the responsibility to improve the quality of life of the community.
The existing model makes the following assumptions…
- Is responsible for the quality of life of the community
- Must solve people’s problems
- Requires little of residents
- Are elected to fix all problems
- Act and feel like they should be treated as customers
Local government managers:
- Try to make all the above happen
Under his proposed “Partnership” model, local governments need to work with residents acting like citizens. The assumption is that local government will never be able to solve all problems without the active involvement by residents. This doesn’t mean that local government should expect residents to pave streets, build infrastructure, or perform economic development.
The new proposed model does make the following assumptions…
- Can’t solve all problems and never could
- Are partially – but not completely – responsible for the quality of life
- Set priorities and allocate resources for the most pressing issues
- Need to act more like citizens and less like customers
- Must take shared responsibility for the quality of life in their neighborhoods
Local government managers:
- Facilitate cooperative problem solving rather than always trying to solve the problems themselves
Whether you agree with the “Partnership” model or not, it does bring up some very valid points. Local government cannot solve every community issue, nor should it. Probably one of the most glaring examples is the property maintenance issue. Local government is required by law to follow legal requirements to take action against violating property owners. This generally is very time consuming and frustrating for residents. Maybe a much more effective and quicker resolution could take place if neighbors talked with property owners to persuade cooperation in maintaining their properties. Otherwise, we go through a continual cycle of required bureaucratic process.
In Piqua, we do have lots of citizen involvement (active participation) and engagement (knowledge about community issues). Some great examples include our Adopt-A-Park program, Neighborhood Associations, Positively Promoting Piqua, Citizens for a Better Piqua, Active Piqua, POWW, MainSteet Piqua, Piqua Church Association, Friends of Piqua Parks, and the iPiqua Partnership. These groups are taking on issues within the community. But more of this is needed.
I would agree that the current model does not work well in some cases. Hopefully, we can continue to expand our Piqua partnership with residents and progress for the betterment of the community.