Democracy Can Be Muddy

The neighborhood councils have been criticized for mudslinging and infighting at meetings. But democracy is messy. Conflicts often represent a sincere effort to communicate with each other and build a foundation for the future.

Establishing dispute resolution commissions in every planning area to arbitrate neighborhood council related disputes, however, would reduce the time the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) and the City Attorney spend sorting out conflicts. The commissions would provide an impartial body to hear complaints, so that valuable neighborhood council meeting time could be reserved for important issues, rather than personality disputes.

I have attended meetings for over 50 neighborhood councils in the past two years and can report that the system is a success. The councils are improving their communities and empowering stakeholders. They should not be faulted for getting a little muddy in the process. We must be patient while the neighborhood councils get their houses in order.


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