• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

Governing American communities becomes ever more challenging in the contemporary political and economic environment. People in communities seek to exercise local control of public programs as they confront powerful special interests and public demands for a smaller, more responsive public sector. Furthermore, they contend with an entrenched traditional view of public professionals as experts who control public agencies and provide services. Drawing on fundamental ideas about the relationship of citizens to the public sphere, Richard C. Box presents a model of “citizen governance.” Recognizing the challenges in the community governance setting, he advocates rethinking the structure of local government and the roles of citizens, elected officials, and public professionals in the 21st century. His model shifts a large part of the responsibility for local public policy from the professional and the elected official to the citizen. Citizens take part directly in creating and implementing policy, elected officials coordinate the policy process, and public professionals facilitate citizen discourse, offering the knowledge of public practice needed for successful “citizen governance.”

Models of American Citizenship

In the beginning of the nation, there was little concern in America with what we now think of as organized citizen participation in government. We were a rural nation with a few urban settlements of some size and a number of small communities. Many citizens who wished to have an influence over community affairs could do so easily. The process of public decision making and implementation of “public policy” took place in what were, by modern standards, small and simple structures and settings.

This suited Thomas Jefferson, a deeply involved and fascinated observer of the development of the nation. Jefferson's ideas about governance were complex, exhibiting an interplay of concern with individual liberties and the need for citizens to take part in ...

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