Scenario 12

Public Participation Techniques and Strategies

You are a consultant hired by a municipal planning agency. Your firm was selected, after a competitive bidding process, to produce the new master plan for a small city of about 60,000 that has been in decline over the past few decades. The city is racially divided, with an elderly Caucasian population and a more recent Latin American immigrant population. The elected city council includes mostly conservative white businessmen and a very outspoken (and Republican) young African-American real estate developer. The city is located along a fairly large river that has been polluted by a badly designed regional wastewater treatment system, a now defunct industrial plant - that is an un-remediated Superfund site - and the run-off from a range of large-scale agricultural activities upstream. Unless and until the river is cleaned up, downtown redevelopment and new investment along the river's edge is unlikely.

The city planning department has been told to produce a new master plan (the old one is almost 15 years out of date). The city council wants a plan that will ensure long-term economic growth and short-term pollution reduction. The only way to encourage new economic investment is to convince people that the greening of the city and a new sustainable pattern of investment will attract additional residents with money to spend.

What kind of public participation strategy will your firm recommend as part of the new master planning effort? In general, there is no tradition of public participation in the city. Assume you have a budget of $50,000 to support whatever public involvement activities you choose. What techniques will best help to educate and involve all the segments and factions in the city? HOw will you justify your public engagement strategy to a skeptical city council?


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