Just Growth, Measure M, transportation equity

#JustGrowth Agenda Outcome #2: Engaging the Community as a Partner


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This is the second in a series of blogs outlining six draft outcomes to guide our advocacy work in 2017. For more background on this series, read the introduction here. We invite your questions, comments, and critiques! Please email us your thoughts at jessica@investinginplace.org

Outcome: Metro engages the community as a partner in developing the transportation system.

What success looks like:

  • Metro incorporates early and continuous stakeholder engagement in all major decisions, with demonstrated responsiveness to input.
  • Metro establishes a bench of qualified community-based organizations to expand the agency’s capacity for authentic engagement.

Metro’s decisions have far-reaching consequences for communities and these decisions aren’t always made on a level playing field. Transportation policy is technical and complex, so how decisions get made is often not transparent to the people affected by those decisions. With such a complicated subject matter, both language and education levels can pose barriers to participation for some stakeholders, not to mention the time commitment to attend meetings and engage decision makers.

How can Metro Better Engage our Communities?

Given the challenges inherent in community engagement, several of Metro’s recent efforts should be commended as great examples of proactive engagement yielding better decisions. Joint Development in Boyle Heights: After a community outcry, Metro scrapped their plan and went back to the drawing board to redo development standards for Metro-owned properties in Boyle Heights. These discussions delved into complicated land use issues in an accessible way, allowing community priorities for the sites to emerge and be incorporated into new development standards.

Measure M: Developing the expenditure plan was an extensive process that took into account stakeholder feedback from all across the county. The combination of polling, public workshops, and targeted outreach meant that the input gathered was both broad and deep — getting a general sense of public sentiment while hearing directly from key constituencies. We particularly appreciated the public workshops held in each subregion to gather input from community members.

Policy Advisory Council: Measure M implementation will require carefully balancing competing priorities among different stakeholder groups. While the Policy Advisory Council hasn’t been formed yet, its structure is promising for its breadth and depth to allow different stakeholder groups to provide direct input on upcoming decisions.

Key Thoughts

These examples have a few common themes: identifying different constituencies with a stake in a decision; bringing those stakeholders into the decision-making process early; engaging them throughout; and clearly documenting how their input was incorporated into the final decision. We seek to make this approach the norm for major decisions at Metro. We also want to build capacity among community-based organizations to engage in transportation decisions by building more formal partnerships with Metro. Community-based organizations know their communities and are invested in their success.

However, these organizations are generally under-resourced and may not have either the capacity or technical knowledge to engage on transportation decisions without greater support. We believe Metro should identify organizations with strong community ties and compensate them for their involvement in helping Metro to engage community members.

Further Reading