Comment 28080

By dubious (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2009 at 10:46:39

Please forgive me if I'm somewhat cynical about the effectiveness of closed groups of community "leaders" developing civic life.

As "leaders" the individuals involved might be presumed to already have more influence in political activity and community affairs than the average citizen. It is good for the political process to consult with such people, and good that they have have a forum to discuss their ideas and priorities among themselves, but what makes this forum different from, say, the Chamber of Commerce or other advocacy groups?

Historically, I'd suggest that the city's limitations may have been a result of too much influence resting in the hands of a small community elite (which is what sociologists used to call community "leaders".) This is not to say that nothing of value ever came from such practices, but I'd like to suggest that more can be gained by opening up the political process than by devising more ways to put more power in the hands of existing "leaders".

There's a tendency for the powerful, or "leaders", an elite, or anyone for that matter, to look at problems in ways that benefit themselves or those similar to themselves. We may tackle poverty, for instance, by hiring a group of middle-class social workers to move in and "advise" members of a community, rather than by providing jobs to that community to say, clear snow or sweep downtown streets, or to drive buses for expanded public transit systems.

I think more gets done when groups organize to advocate for themselves in open political systems than by forming additional ways for civic "leaders" to extend their powers.

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