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July 21: Program for Deliberative Democracy Partners With Pittsburgh Foundation To Gather Public Opinion on Improving Local Government

Contact: Shilo Raube / 412-268-6094 / sraube@andrew.cmu.edu

Program for Deliberative Democracy Partners With Pittsburgh Foundation
To Gather Public Opinion on Improving Local Government

PITTSBURGH—The Program for Deliberative Democracy (PDD), a joint venture between Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for the Advancement of Applied Ethics and Political Philosophy and Pittsburgh’s Coro Center for Civic Leadership, has partnered with The Pittsburgh Foundation to gather informed public opinion on improving local government in Allegheny County. The initiative is designed to promote public conversation and feedback about municipal services and to provide public officials with feedback and ideas from citizens on improving efficiencies and cost-effective strategies. It is the largest public opinion gathering exercise on the topic of local government improvement.

“Strong, effective local government is essential to the overall quality of life for our community,” said Grant Oliphant, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation. “Our goal is to canvass a full and diverse spectrum of public opinion and provide those opinions and ideas to help inform future decision-making of public officials.”

Key components of the initiative include:
  • A state-wide poll in June undertaken by the Institute of Public Affairs at Temple University in Philadelphia that will determine how Allegheny County residents compare in their opinions about improving local government;
  • Launch of a special new website, Allegheny Forum, which will invite individuals, families and organizations across the county to provide their views and ideas online about major issues that are critical to their communities; and
  • A citizens’ deliberative poll® in September involving up to 300 diverse individuals in Allegheny County, conducted by the PDD. The deliberations will focus on how to improve the quality and cost of public services through greater cooperation among governments and better support from the state of Pennsylvania. Police services will be used as a case study and participants will have an opportunity to express their views on the best way to deliver police services in their communities.
Since 2004, the PDD has been using deliberative polling — facilitated and structured conversations — to collect information on what a representative sample of people from a community thinks about an issue once they have had time to become informed about it. The program has used the method of deliberative polling on topics ranging from marriage in America and public art, to climate change and public policy. The deliberative poll on “The Future of Local Government in Allegheny County” will take place on Sept. 25 at Carnegie Mellon.

Results from the local governance deliberative poll will be announced later in the fall with a compendium of the public opinions and ideas received throughout the initiative. 

According to PDD co-director Gregory Crowley of Coro, “We are conducting this deliberative poll to create an alternative approach for the citizens of Allegheny County to weigh in on a critical area of public policy change. The deliberative poll will gather together many different kinds of people, and enable them to learn from each other and a resource panel of experts about the challenges facing our local governments, and the options available for meeting those challenges. Participants will then express their opinions through a survey that will become the basis of the report that we provide to the Pittsburgh Foundation in October.”    

“This process is part of an ongoing movement to make our democracy stronger,” said Robert Cavalier, teaching professor of philosophy at Carnegie Mellon and PDD co-director. “And, with the support of our local foundations and the interest of many public officials and stakeholders, our region is becoming recognized nationally not only for our new industries and research centers, but also for our more robust democratic practices.”

For more information about The Program for Deliberative Democracy and the initiative on improving local government in Allegheny County, visit hss.cmu.edu/pdd/.

Follow the College of Humanities and Social Sciences on Twitter: @CMU_HSS.

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