One of the cornerstones of democracy is the idea that citizen participation is essential to good government. Nowhere is this more true than at the municipal level.
Public involvement engages citizens, community groups, organizations, and businesses in problem solving, planning and decision making at both Council and staff levels.
Above all, public involvement processes aim to inspire people, groups, and organizations to take an active role in caring for and enriching their community. What is needed is Fair Dinkum Consultation
Public involvement processes are designed to:
- inform citizens, groups, and organizations about specific decisions likely to affect their lives
- ensure all views are considered in planning and decision making
- create joint visions that speak to multiple interests and concerns
- initiate action to resolve issues and problem
In the past few decades, public participation has fallen away. The technical nature of reports, and the sheer volume of them, has made it more difficult for the public to participate. More has been left to the experts, and Aldermen rely on the expertise of staff to advise them, compromising their role as representatives of the people.
To encourage greater citizen participation, I have advocated the ‘Precinct’ model, where Council supports local groups to participate and engage within their local area. These people, working at a grass-roots level are ready made candidates for Council. With more local candidates, well known in their community, a true Citizens' Democracy is possible. Many more people will cast their vote, putting paid to the notion that Compulsory Voting is necessary. A true citizens’ democracy would not compel people to vote.
Polls of ratepayers have been held over many years, particularly in regard to the raing system. Perhaps that is what is needed in Hobart now.
The history of Rating Polls in Victoria is that when people are asked what system they want, they choose Land Value Rating. Other systems tend to be arbitrarily imposed. We would do well to take note of experience elsewhere.
In New Zealand, hundreds of rating polls have been held. As a result, 90% of all municipalities had adopted land value rating by ratepayer poll.
Wherever land value rating applies it has been adopted by a poll of ratepayers, born of profound social concern. Where capital or annual value rating applies, in most cases, it has been imposed by government or councils, contrary to the express wish of the ratepayers.