Local Control is about Trust and Accountability

February 26, 2019

Larry Hanson, GMA Executive Director

Cities United, Local Control, Local Accountability. It matters.
A s local elected officials, you truly represent the government closest to the people. Serving people is at the heart of everything you do. Your residents rely on you and your fellow elected officials to look out for what’s in their best interest. A recent poll shows that that 70 percent of respondents have a favorable opinion of local elected officials. Such a response validates the trust citizens place in their local officials and reinforces a core principal of democracy: the active participation of citizens in politics and civic life.

What is it that makes your city unique? Why is it that people want to live there, open businesses and build homes? It’s probably because of the hard work you and the citizens of your city have accomplished in creating a unique sense of place that combines your city’s history and traditions with its goals and aspirations. Such plans are developed in so many public, transparent and inclusive ways. Local residents serve on boards, commissions and authorities where they strive to develop comprehensive plans with substantial public input. Master plans are also developed as a roadmap for the future with the input of the public. As local elected officials, you engage with residents every day and in multiple ways. This includes the formal meetings like city council or commission meetings, where residents can come and speak, but also the daily, informal contact at the grocery store, community event, sporting event, a house of worship or a civic club.

Residents are anxious to share their opinions, thoughts and concerns with you and they trust and rely on you to see that sound public policy is adopted in the best interest of the residents of your city. Many of the policies you adopt are formed by the unique character of your city and shaped by the lives and the histories of the people who choose to live there. This is the core of democracy, where residents create a shared vision with their local elected officials based on trust and accountability.

We talk a lot about local control, but at its very core, local control is about accountability. Your residents expect you to govern in a way that meets their basic needs, but also in a way that helps the city prosper, based on local input that defines what “prosperity” looks like where you live. Whether that’s deciding how and in what way your city grows through zoning and land use policies, developing design guidelines through citizen driven input and plans or deciding how best to manage your tax and fee structures, you are best suited to be responsive to your city residents. In turn, they hold you accountable each day and at each election. Local elected officials understand they are accountable to residents and they work hard to balance the many interests (some that are often competing) to reach consensus through collaboration and engagement.

Let’s continue to advocate for local control because it’s important that you retain your ability to be accountable for decisions that affect the residents in your city each and every day.

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