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Carnegie Mellon Hosts Deliberative Poll on Local Government
PITTSBURGH—As part of The Pittsburgh Foundation
's "Allegheny Forum" initiative
to promote public discussion and feedback about municipal services in Allegheny County's 130 municipalities, including the City of Pittsburgh, a Deliberative Poll was hosted Saturday (Sept. 25) at Carnegie Mellon University.
The poll involved more than 200 randomly selected individuals from Allegheny County and was conducted by the Program for Deliberative Democracy
(PDD), a joint venture between Carnegie Mellon's Center for the Advancement of Applied Ethics and Political Philosophy
and Pittsburgh's Coro Center for Civic Leadership
"The issues facing local governments are just too important to ignore," said Grant Oliphant, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation. "The deliberative poll will enable us to provide government with a clear direction of citizen's ideas and opinion, ensuring that their voices become a part of the policy platform."
Participants in the deliberative poll received balanced information regarding the challenges facing local governments, including declining revenues and rising costs that have affected the public services they are able to provide to citizens. With this information in hand, they came to Carnegie Mellon to spend a day discussing these issues in small, moderated groups. They formulated questions to be asked during a plenary session with experts and ended the day answering a detailed survey.
"We conducted 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," said Gregory Crowley, co-director of the PDD and vice president of program development and evaluation at Coro.
Robert Cavalier, co-director of the PDD and a teaching professor of philosophy
at Carnegie Mellon, added, "These kinds of informed, well structured conversations stand in sharp contrast to the often contentious town hall meetings that we have seen. It gives us an idea of what a more thoughtful democratic process might look like."
Later this year, the information gathered in the poll will be announced, together with an overall compendium of all the public opinions and ideas received by the "Allegheny Forum" website, at a forum where comment will be invited by state and local elected representatives.
Discussion topics at the forum have included water and sewer, fire protection, parks and recreation, street maintenance and emergency medical services. The public is invited to add their comments and ideas to these discussions. In October as a run up to the general election, the public also is encouraged to comment on what they would like to tell elected officials about local government improvement.
The website also includes the information received by participants in the deliberative poll. Citizens who were not selected to participate in the event are invited to take a version of the deliberative poll online beginning Oct. 1. Visitors to the site can also join the ongoing discussions on local government improvement and share their opinions. The website is at www.alleghenyforum.org