Thanks to the N&O for taking on the difficult task of finding common ground in today’s polarized debates. (May 16, ‘N&O forum will focus on talking across the political divide’) While Raleigh has been the calm eye at the center of most political storms, the city experienced a bruising debate in 2007 over the lack of citizen involvement in park planning. The city listened and hired nationally-recognized experts in citizen engagement from NC State to train staff and redesign park planning to improve citizen involvement. Today, the Raleigh Parks Department is the model for engaging our citizens.
Council is now working to improve citizen engagement citywide. As before, there are strong opinions about the best way to proceed. Fortunately, our success with parks offers a reliable path for reaching across the polarized divide. Let’s hire experts of the caliber that guided the Parks Department transformation, to step back, listen to citizen voices and focus on our shared values. Let’s build trust in a new citywide vision that improves engagement and empowerment, incorporates the best new methods plus the time-tested ones, and gives voice to many new participants as well as those who have been our most engaged.