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March 2010 Public Works Officer’s Institute: Building Public Support for Public Works Projects with Educational Dialogues

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The Institute for Local Government organized an interactive “talk show” style session on public engagement for public works projects at the recent League of California Cities’ Public Works Officer’s Institute in Monterey.

“Especially now when money is a little tighter, you need to be a lot more creative as to how you raise the capital to take care of aging infrastructure and make new improvements,” said moderator Tony Antich, an engineer with the City of Santa Monica.

City Manager (and former public works director) Rich Ramirez of American Canyon and Paavo Ogren, public works director of San Luis Obispo County, shared their experiences and lessons learned in involving residents in educational dialogues to build public support for much needed improvements to their respective water treatment systems. “You can’t just rely on the usual suspects in this situation,” said Rich Ramirez.

Panelists discussed how they have learned to “take their hands off the wheel” and trust in a public process to come up with the best solution to a problem facing the community. Former Napa city attorney Tom Brown shared advice on legal issues that could arise when local agencies engage residents and raise revenue, as in the Vargas vs. City of Salinas case.

 

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