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MRSC Insight Blog


Posts for Public Participation

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Building Trust During Polarizing Times

Distrust, misinformation, and polarization seem to be growing at the national and local levels. How can local government build trust to help dispel misinformation, reduce polarization, increase engagement, and maintain a healthy, engaged democracy?

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Whatcom County Boosts Engagement Efforts to Build a More Equitable Advisory Board

In order to contribute to building the health and well-being of young children and their families, Whatcom County developed a diverse, community-driven Child and Family Well-Being Task Force through innovative policies and increased community engagement. 

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When Hate Comes to Town: Addressing Racist and Anti-Semitic Public Comment at Meetings

In recent months, some city council meetings have had their public comment period hijacked by bad actors whose purpose is to make hateful comments. Local governments have some options for minimizing the chance that their meetings are compromised in such a manner.

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Planning for Local Food Systems: A Whatcom County Case Study, Part 2

After extensive planning and community engagement, Whatcom County is developing a comprehensive local food system plan. See Part 2 of the series on the plan's development and lessons learned.

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Centering Equity in Climate Plans and Programs

As new legislation (HB 1181) has added equity components to the Growth Management Act, it is essential to understand what climate equity means and how it is successfully being carried out by local governments across the state.

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Technology and Open Government: Maximizing Participation and Transparency

Obtaining a broad spectrum of public participation in local government meetings can be challenging. This blog looks at a few examples of the innovative tools and approaches Washington agencies are using. 

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The Right to Assemble: Responding to Protests, Spontaneous Gatherings, and Counter-Demonstrations

This blog explores the right to assemble in connection with protests and gatherings in outdoor public places and provides thoughts on how local governments can respond to situations that may arise.

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Strategies for Managing Difficult Public Meetings and Hearings

This blog offers some steps you can take before, during, and after difficult public meetings and public hearings to make them less stressful and more productive for everyone.

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Are Your Public Meetings Truly “Open” to the Public?

This blog post considers how local governments could make public meetings even more accessible to the public. 

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Using a Scavenger Hunt and Gamification to Unite a Growing City

Guest author Riley Sweeney, Communications Officer/Recreation Coordinator for the City of Ferndale, writes about engaging city residents through game-playing via a scavenger hunt.

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Communications in 10-5-1

Just as in our personal relations, communications are essential for fostering good community relations. Council/Commission Advisor Bob Jean looks at the role of the message, messenger, and media in local government communications efforts. 

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Using Citizen Academies to Educate and Engage your Citizenry

Citizens academies offer constituents the opportunity to learn about different aspects of local government functions via a one-time or a series of presentations. This blog looks at a few examples of citizens academies, both within and outside of Washington State.

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Community-Led Demonstration Projects: A Cost Effective Way to Engage Citizens and Implement Plans

A new policy from Burlington, Vermont provides a neat example of how jurisdictions can give their enthusiastic citizen activists a clear avenue for taking action.

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When Public Comment is Challenging

This fall I had the privilege of working with planning directors from across the state at their 25th annual conference in Chelan, Washington. Our focus was on keeping things on track when folks are rude, crude or confused, particularly during public comment sessions.

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Who's Your CEO - “Chief ENGAGEMENT Officer”?

Coming out of the “Great Recession” these past 4 years, what percentage of all money measures submitted to voters by local governments nationwide (cities, counties, schools, etc) do you think passed?  30%?  40%? More? Less?  According to research by the International City County Management Association (ICMA), from 2010-2013 over 70% of local money referendums were approved by voters! And those initiated by direct community engagement passed by 90%!

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Can You Hear Me Now? Reaching Out to Engage Increasingly Diverse Communities

According to the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Planning Association, “when it comes to effective communication … the ‘general public’ doesn’t exist.”  Rather than...

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Speed Dating: It's Not Just for Your Social Life Anymore

"Speed mentoring" provides a creative opportunity to allow people to make contact with people in fields they might want to pursue. Lynn Nordby considers how this concept might be applied to other local government activities.

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Who Says You Can’t Fight City Hall?

We have all heard the expression, "You can't fight city hall." But many citizens can and do regularly participate in their local government and are able to have real impacts on the outcomes of policy debates.

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Top Five Video Ideas for Local Government

The digital futurists predict that within three years 80 percent or more of internet content will be via video.  Why is that important to local government?  Citizens are already accessing most of their information about local government via the internet, and there will be a growing expectation that the information presented on your website will be via video.  The flexibility of the internet as a...

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Seattle Councilmember Richard Conlin on Civic Engagement

This post from Seattle Councilmember Richard Conlin reflects his insights from years of experience in working with neighborhoods to manage conflict and develop consensus on controversial growth and land use issues. He stresses that successful outcomes start with a well-designed civic engagement process.

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