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Is Chapel Hill ready for a Public Engagement Advisory Board?

With all the talk about restructuring Chapel Hill's advisory boards, I thought it might be good time to publicly share my idea for a new board to help foster better civic engagement and more open government, while also addressing the gap left by firing the technology advisory board 7 years ago. I shared this proposal with the Mayor's Committee on Communications in late 2010, but there didn't seem to be much interest at the time. Maybe now there is an opportunity to do something to make Chapel Hill more participatory and democratic.

Not enough Chapel Hill residents participate in public meetings and advisory boards. This lack of engagement leaves the Town at a disadvantage without the valuable input of a broad range of Chapel Hillians, and also leaves many people feeling frustrated and cut off from decisions that impact their lives and issues that concern them.

Frustrating week

So far this week, my e-mail to the school board was trapped in their spam filter (and not discovered until after they voted on the subject of the e-mail), and then I went to a public hearing at which the county commissioners did not in fact accept public comment. Not a great week for civic engagement.

Wow, you can search all e-mail to Chapel Hill Mayor and Council on the Town's web site.

How to make the Comprehensive Plan truly comprehensive

I've been encouraged to hear municipal staff and elected leaders in Chapel Hill talk about how broad, inclusive, and engaging they want the process of revising the Town's Comprehensive Plan to be. I've also seen some positive steps in this direction, but have also been frustrated about my inability to get information about what is going on with the process so far. Hopefully, this frustration will end when the public part of the process kicks off on September 27th (OP's birthday, coincidentally).

The town's "2020" web site lists ways that people can get involved including: Become a Stakeholder, Join a Working Group, Subscribe to our email list, Take a survey, Attend a Meeting, Tell someone about Chapel Hill 2020, and Tell us who's missing. This is a great start. I think this process is an opportunity to think more broadly about how to get residents more involved more effectively and creatively in our local government, and I bet we can think of some different formats and different venues for this to happen.



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