Public Administrators and Citizens: What Should the Relationship Be?
Public Administrators and Citizens is a working draft Kettering report that focuses on those in the public administration field who want to connect with citizens. US citizens remain alienated from the country’s electoral system and distrustful of major institutions, especially those of government. Some professionals have doubts about whether the public has anything to contribute to their programs and agencies beyond providing endorsements and tax revenue. Sensing this, people have become cynical about the efforts professionals make to engage them; citizens feel manipulated. This cycle of mutual distrust dominates the political environment in which public administrators work.
This report suggests other ways of thinking about public administration that have implications for engaging citizens and are about engaging the public. The major finding is that people have to engage one another before administrators can engage them as a public. This kind of engagement seems critical to breaking the cycle of mutual distrust.