Why is Public Engagement Important to Building Complete Communities?

It is Essential to Complete Communities

According to research conducted by IPA, inclusive and active is one of the five elements of a complete community. Complete communities actively seek to engage citizens and strengthen their involvement in community visioning and planning, creating durable social networks, and preserving the culture of a community.

Public participation strengthens and is an integral part of decision-making process at the federal, state, and local government levels. Early and continuous public involvement ensures that decisions reflect public needs and interests, consider diverse viewpoints and values, and are made in collaboration and consensus with all stakeholders. This process builds mutual understanding and trust between government entities and the people they serve. Successful public participation is a deliberate and continuous process. It consists of a series of activities and actions, and serves to inform, educate, and gain input from stakeholders on decisions that affect their lives.

It Meets Federal Mandates

The federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was enacted ensure an informed citizenry, which is vital to the functioning of a democratic society. It encourages federal agency accountability through transparency by providing access to public records and decision-making processes. For example, federal transportation laws and regulations provide general guidelines for locally developed public involvement processes and procedures. With respect to transportation planning, state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and public transit agencies are required to:

1) Develop and use a documented public involvement process that provides reasonable opportunities for public review and comment,

2) Provide a reasonable opportunity for the public to comment on the proposed plan, and

3) Adopt strategies to target under-represented, under-served, and/or special-needs audiences.

It Conforms to State Laws

State “sunshine laws” guarantee that all meetings of a public body are open to the public and there is access to the public records of governmental bodies. Delaware’s FOIA states that “it is vital in a democratic society that public business be performed in an open and public manner” and that “citizens have easy access to public records.” All meetings of any public body in Delaware—including local town or county councils, planning commissions, and boards of adjustment—must be advertised, open, and accessible to the public.

Delaware also has a strong tradition of involving citizens in land-use decisions. The Delaware Code requires local governments to establish Planning Commissions, which serve in either a decision-making or an advisory capacity to the local legislative body. Volunteer boards, commissions, and committees work to build consensus on land or transportation plans, promote smart growth, protect the environment, and enhance the economy.


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