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olicy Impact and Civic Engagement

Part 1: Chapter 10 of the required text The New Public Service: Serving, not Steering covers citizen engagement and the New Public Service. The text gives examples of a wide variety of approaches to enhanced citizen participation. They conclude with practical recommendations. Why do you think most citizens do not take more interest in politics and public policy? Is citizen engagement an issue to which we should be paying attention? What might increase our national level of interest and participation? What would motivate you to become more active? Did the text cover the primary approaches or are there others? Finally, what other recommendations would you add to their list?
Part 2: Get out and do it! Apply what you have learned and engage! Kraft and Furlong wrote on page 156 that “students should arrange visits to government and other offices to obtain information and interview policy actors.”

A good starting point may a topic from this class that piqued your interest (think gun violence in schools, military retirement). Write your representatives, join a PAC, or share your thoughts with member of your local or state government.

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Politics, Analysis & Policy Choice

We close our class by discussing policy conflicts, incremental decision making, evaluating policies, and engagement of citizens in the policy making and implementation processes.

The textbook authors argue that ultimately all policies are a compromise or a collaborative position. Because the political/policy making system is fraught with various ideas, positions, ideologies and underlying goals, a policy will rarely end the way it was originally started. Working through this system is what drives incremental decision making. In other words, because we compromise through the policy making process, inherently the policy will need adjustment in the future and we will need to incrementally make changes. While this can be catastrophic for some policy areas, overall it provides an opportunity to continually modify, fine-tune, and evaluate various pieces of a policy issue.

When considering collaborative/compromise positions or adjustments to policies, it is imperative that we work through a policy analysis. Remember from the discussion in the textbook’s Chapters 4-6, policy analysis provides clarity to problems and solutions, provides information on actions and alternatives, and gives us knowledge to make informed and sustainable decisions. The factors we have considered when evaluating public policy are listed in this table:

Effectiveness

how well the policy achieves its goals

Efficiency

the cost of the policy in relation to the expected benefits

Equity

the level of fairness in the distribution of costs and benefits through society

Ethics (Liberty/Freedom)

impacts on freedom, liberty and cultural norms

Political Feasibility

the level of acceptance by elected officials

Social Acceptability

the level of public acceptance and support

Administrative Feasibility

the ability to implement the policy

Technical Feasibility

the availability and reliability of the technology needed for implementation

In addition to providing clarity and support, policy analysis can also provide insight into policy capacity. Policy capacity considers the performance of government and the ability to respond to citizens’ concerns. Through examining policy capacity, we are:

Analyzing institutional reforms
Providing better evaluation of agencies charged with implementation
Assessing better ways to inform citizens on actions to address problems and identify alternate solutions

Citizen Engagement

It is crucial and highly valuable for citizens to engage in the policy-making process. Whether it is elevating needs, communicating issues, or monitoring and analyzing policy actions, we all have a role in the policy-making process. I would encourage you to take part in public policy in some manner at the local, state or federal level.

One place that over 60% of American homeowners participate in micro-democracies is membership in homeowner associations (HOAs). These have evolved primarily from property developers wanting to ensure property values were not adversely affected by neighborhood issues, such as loose dogs, unsightly garbage, overgrown grass, etc. Given that all homeowners signed agreements when purchasing property within the HOA boundaries for organization by-laws and conditions, covenants, and rules (CC&Rs), they willingly submit to following the aforementioned documents or suffer the consequences (eg, HOA fines, property liens, and/or lawsuits). Each HOA is required to have a board of directors led by an elected president for a certain term limit. The Board can request homeowners do things they otherwise may not do, and can enforce these requests through local courts. As such, the HOA by-laws and CC&Rs have the force of law.

Recently, a freedom of speech issue came up when homeowners wanted to post signs supporting candidates during political elections. HOAs can prohibit even the posting of such signs in your home or car windows. To learn more about HOAs and their political powers, please read at least section 2 of Brian Jason’s 2006 article entitled “Regulation of Political Signs in Private Homeowner Associations: A New Approach.”

Finally, for any social issue to be considered, there needs to be an issue champion. An issue champion is a person or group of people who actually expend personal resources and time to get their interest (s) into the public forum for consideration. The process to do this is often referred to as issue mobilization. In my HOA, to get road signs posted to remind people to drive no faster than 15 MPH so as to minimize dust clouds, I had to go to each neighbor to explain what I wanted to do (ie, how many signs, where they would be posted, how much money would they cost, etc). If I had not done this, there would be no speed limit signs posted today.

Conclusion

Public Policy making involves many steps and people. However, the key factor to making any of this work is the involvement of citizens.

Reference
(1 source must come from)
Kraft, Michael and Scott Furlong. (2015) Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives. Sage Press.

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