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Civility and Civil Dialogue in Local Government December 17, 2013 Bill Rizzo, Ph.D. Professor and Local Government Specialist University of Wisconsin-Extension.

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Presentation on theme: "Civility and Civil Dialogue in Local Government December 17, 2013 Bill Rizzo, Ph.D. Professor and Local Government Specialist University of Wisconsin-Extension."— Presentation transcript:

1 Civility and Civil Dialogue in Local Government December 17, 2013 Bill Rizzo, Ph.D. Professor and Local Government Specialist University of Wisconsin-Extension Local Government Center

2 Approaches to Local Governance

3 Today’s Local Governance Environment Erosion of trust in government; Cynicism toward government; Diversity of citizens’ views; Complex issues; Polarization; A breakdown in basic civility;

4 Traditional Local Governance Roles Local officials – Issue framers, experts, analysts, policy producers/decision-makers; Citizens – Voters, feedback providers, policy consumers, policy consumers/reactors; Community Organizations – Issue framers, feedback providers, policy position advocates.

5 Traditional Local Governance Challenges Wicked problems; How issues get named and framed; Getting sufficient perspective; Limitations of discussion and debate.

6 Problem Types Problem Type Problem Definition Problem Solution Responsible Parties IClear Expert IIClearUnclearExpert Constituent IIIUnclear Various/ Collaboration (Michael Huggins, Public Collaboration Associates, 2013)

7 Wicked Problems (Type III) Complex, interdependent issues Lack a clear problem definition Conflicting values and perspectives Multiple stakeholders No right or wrong, only better or worse Key to success is collaboration & engagement

8 Collaborative Local Governance Addressing community issues as a community-wide responsibility and activity   elected officials, citizens, and community organizations all have a role…and a responsibility…to address community issues Assumptions   Regardless of demographic makeup, communities are highly diverse, in terms of needs and perspectives   The best local policy decisions are those which are well- informed by the broadest set of perspectives, and which address the broadest set of community needs

9 Collaborative Local Governance Provides a Way…...to address the challenge of wicked problems; …to get citizens and civic organizations involved in meaningful ways, to address community issues; …to name & frame local issues, and deliberate around alternative actions with a clearer picture of community-wide needs & interests;

10 Collaborative Local Governance Roles Local Elected Officials Issue-namer and framer, convener, educator, dialogue participant, deliberator, learner, public engagement champion, decision-maker. Citizens Issue-namer and framer, dialogue participant, deliberator, learner, informer, voter. Community-serving Organizations Issue-namer and framer, convener, dialogue participant, deliberator, learner, educator.

11 Discussion Question Do you have examples of “wicked” in your community? How have you addressed them? Examples can come from any local jurisdiction – Town, Village, City, or County government. What approach to local governance do you have in your community, and how is it working?

12 Debate & Discussion vs. Dialogue and Deliberation DebateDiscussionDialogueDeliberation Compete Argue Promote Opinion See Majority Persuade/Dig in Tight Structure Express Usually fast Clarifies Win/Lose Exchange Discuss Build relationships Understand Reach across Loose structure Listen Usually slow Clarifies No decision Search for shared meaning Inquire, explore, discover Share stories, perspectives, and experiences Listen to learn Examine assumptions Explore alternative points of view Weigh alternatives Choose Make choices Seek overlap Seek common ground Flexible structure Learn Usually slow Clarifies Make decisions

13 Why Engage the Public More? Policies that accurately reflect the range of community needs and interests; Representative policy = supportable local policy; Reduce conflict among interests; Provides a way for experts to explain complex issues and inform how people see and think about issues; Reduce transaction and opportunity costs; Provide safe, civil, spaces and means for people to talk and learn from each other about issues and each other.

14 Citizen Engagement Values International Association of Public Participation (IAP2) Public participation is based on the belief that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process; Public participation includes the promise that the public's contribution will influence the decision’\ Public participation promotes sustainable decisions by recognizing and communicating the needs and interests of all participants, including decision makers.

15 Citizen Engagement Values Public participation seeks out and facilitates the involvement of those potentially affected by or interested in a decision. Public participation seeks input from participants in designing how they participate. Public participation provides participants with the information they need to participate in a meaningful way. Public participation communicates to participants how their input affected the decision

16 Civility in Public Discourse

17 Civility isn’t a new idea “Every action done in company, ought to be with some sign of respect, to those that are present,” George Washington (at age 16) -Rule #1, 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior

18 What does the public think? 2010 Study by Allegheny College (PA) and Indiana-Purdue University Ft. Wayne Random survey of 1000 Americans to assess their attitudes and views around civility in politics.

19 95 % of Americans believe civility in politics is important for a healthy democracy. 87% of Americans suggest it is possible for people to disagree about politics respectfully. Citizens paying close attention to politics are four times more likely to say the tone of politics has gotten worse than those who pay only modest attention to the news. Women define civility differently than men, and are more likely to label recent public political behaviors as uncivil.

20 40% of Americans believe the least civil politicians should suffer a “trip to the woodshed,” 32% said they should take a manners class with Emily Post; 85% of Americans believe politicians should work to cultivate friendships with members of the other party. 63% of Americans say civility has gotten worse in the past few years. Women are more likely to be turned off by negative politics than are men.

21 It’s easy for incivility to develop! Lots of pressures…from everywhere; Issues are complex, difficult…wicked; A lot at stake for citizens, for communities, for local officials personally; Frustration develops and tempers can flare.

22 What’s the civility payoff? A civil atmosphere makes it possible to thoughtfully and effectively talk about, learn about, consider, and leverage a wide range of ideas and perspectives; When leaders talk about issues effectively it becomes possible to find solutions which might not have otherwise surfaced.

23 New Jersey State League of Municipalities Thou shalt not rudely interrupt a colleague midsentence, nor “speak over” a colleague while she/he is speaking; Thou shalt not assume that shrillness of tone is a substitute for substantive dialogue; Thou shalt not resort to “zingers” designed solely to embarrass your target;

24 New Jersey State League of Municipalities Thou shalt not allow legitimate critique of policy and practice to become a personal attack aimed at the person who devised the policy or implements the practice; Thou shalt always recognize that your colleagues were also elected, just as you were, and deserve the same level of respect for having run and won; Thou shalt not ridicule or belittle a colleague, or a member of the public, simply because he or she disagrees with you on an issue.

25 A Synopsis of Civility Principles Tolerance respect and acknowledge the legitimacy of opposing views Respectful Interaction no personal attacks, belittling, name calling, profanity, insults, or disparaging remarks. no jumping to conclusions without knowing what is being said or suggested no interrupting someone when they have the floor. does permit offering constructive criticism or politely challenging one’s assumptions, both of which may serve to enhance the policy dialogue.

26 A Synopsis of Civility Principles Listening to understand what someone else is saying to understand their views and interests to consider new information and become better informed Does not include gathering information to repudiate or attack someone Compromise recognizing and accepting that the best decisions are often necessarily a product of compromise where good-faith attempts are made to integrate opposing interests focus is on the greatest public good

27 A Synopsis of Civility Principles Dialogue Examine assumptions and interests behind positions. Dialogue is deeper and more purposeful than discussion. The intended outcome is to ‘discover’ synergistic solutions. Analysis and Deliberation The intent is to carefully examine as many facets of an issue or problem as possible. The purpose is to craft a solution that serves the greatest good.

28 Civility in Local Government 3 Examples from the Field Douglas County Board of Supervisors, WI) Evansville, WI Seminole County, FL

29 Citizen Engagement

30 Examples of Public Engagement Strategies Issue-specific public learning events Deliberation events, in-person and on-line Study Circles ChoiceWork Dialogue sessions Consensus Conferences Deliberative Polling Issue Naming & Framing

31 Citizen Engagement Methods IAP2 Toolbox Public participation tools and techniques; Organized around 3 public participation objectives: Sharing information Compiling and provide feedback Bringing people together

32 Citizen Engagement 3 Examples from the Field Clear Vision, Eau Claire (WI) Sustainable Dubuque Initiative (IA) Lake St. Croix Nutrient Loading Project (WI, MN)

33 Leadership Opportunities for Local Leaders If you’re an elected official, talk to your colleagues If you’re not, talk to your elected officials Start talking about collaborative governance locally Start a local civility project Become a trained dialogue facilitator Tap into a network…read, learn, share Convene an community issue dialogue, but start small and with a popular but inert issue

34 Questions and Discussion

35 Civility and Civil Dialogue in Local Government December 17, 2013 Bill Rizzo Professor and Local Government Specialist University of Wisconsin-Extension Local Government Center


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