Making Public Participation Legal

Over the last two decades, a wide range of participatory meeting formats and dynamic online tools have emerged. So why do communities continue conducting public business in such an outdated fashion? One obstacle is the legal framework that governs public participation. At the local, state, and federal levels, these laws can stifle innovation and discourage public officials and employees from reaching out to citizens while failing to achieve the intended goal of greater transparency.

A working group of representatives from the International Municipal Lawyers’ Association, International City/County Management Association, American Bar Association, National League of Cities, National Civic League, Policy Consensus Initiative, National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation, and Deliberative Democracy Consortium developed new set of legal tools for public participation, including:

  • Model public participation ordinance for local governments
  • Model public participation act for state governments
  • Local policy options and techniques for strengthening public participation

The publication helps city attorneys and other legal advisors make recommendations in an ever changing context of public participation and democratic governance for which there are few clear laws or legal precedents.

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