Our guest speakers at today’s class came from the city of San Mateo & county of San Mateo. Helen Lei and Tina Pham presented on what it is like to work in local government, what opportunities there are to improve people’s lives, and how to involve more of the public in city decision-making & projects.
Local Bay Area cities are often small or midsized and set up in a Council-Manager style.
The Community elects the City Council, which acts kind of like a board of directors. The City Manager is like the CEO, that directs the operating departments to execute on the vision set by the Council.
Our guests emphasized that local government needs to get close to diverse groups of the public to really understand ‘What are the problems we as the government have to solve?’
That means being active in improving participation in policy-making.
When starting out a new initiative, a government team needs to be creative in mapping out the key stakeholders. Who might be affected by this new project? Like, if we close a street, build a dog park, open a new processing facility, or add more housing — who will benefit, who may be harmed, who may have issues with it?
The team should do its research to figure out who the key groups and people might be — and then hold public events to see if more people also emerge as key stakeholders.
The city government also can work on how to get more groups that don’t have as much power or influence to be able to participate more.