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Gathering photos of public meetings for Legal Frameworks project

NCDD is working with the Deliberative Democracy Consortium and National Civic League to “crowdsource” some great photos of public meetings.  What photos do you have that you feel depict what “bad” public meetings look like?  And do you have favorite photos that show what “good” public meetings can look like?

Send in your photos this week via email, to NCDD’s Creative Director Andy Fluke (andy@ncdd.org). Send in the highest-quality versions you have, and include a by-line (photographer name, where taken, etc.) and verifies that this is your photo to use/share.  We’ll ask more questions if we need them, and we’ll check with you before using the photos in print.

Your photo may be chosen to help promote an important project we want to bring your attention to. For the past year, Matt Leighninger (director of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium) has been spearheading a Working Group on Legal Frameworks for Public Participation with representatives of the American Bar Association, International Municipal Lawyers Association, NCDD, National Civic League, National League of Cities, and International City/County Management Association, as well as leading practitioners and scholars of public participation.

The group has developed several new tools, including a model local ordinance and model amendment to state legislation, in order to help create a more supportive, productive, and equitable environment for public participation. These open source documents will soon be released as a publication of the National Civic League (where your photo could be featured!).

Why develop new legal frameworks for public participation?

Most people dislike official public meetings. This is true for both the public officials who preside over them and the citizens who attend them. Over the last two decades, a wide range of participatory meeting formats and dynamic online tools have emerged – so why do we continue conducting public business in such an outdated fashion?

There are a number of reasons, but one is the legal framework that governs public participation.

Most of these laws and ordinances are over thirty years old; they do not match the expectations and capacities of citizens today, they pre-date the Internet, and they do not reflect the lessons learned in the last two decades about how citizens and governments can work together.

We’re looking for photos from the field to help us illustrate the need for better laws to support better public meetings.  We also welcome your anecdotes and examples that help bolster the need for more a supportive legal framework for public participation.  How have existing laws made it harder for high-quality engagement to take place in your community?  How have you worked around those laws to make sure citizens can be informed by each other and heard by public officials?  Have you help upgrade your city’s legal framework already?  Please send your responses to Andy so he can collect them for the team.

If you want to continue this discussion face-to-face, please join us at the Brookings Institution on October 23 from 9:30 to 11:30 am for “Making Public Participation Legal Again,” a session that will launch the model ordinance and the NCL publication.  Brookings is located at 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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