Call it the sweet spot, the Goldilocks Zone or any other term you like.
It’s the point at which things are able to get done — big things, like development projects, policy making and community engagement. And that’s no small task when you have a community made up of various backgrounds and beliefs.
Yet, somehow, local government does it, perhaps better than at any other level of government.
How are they able to bring disparate beliefs, stakeholders and ideologies together and accomplish big things? Let’s take a look at some of the keys:
Access to elected officials
Local government builds a bridge between constituents and the officials that represent them. At no other of government is this connection stronger than locally.
This is reflected in regulations around public meetings. Every state in the union, including Colorado, have open-meeting laws, requiring that nearly any time local governments are discussing issues related to the public or seeking to take formal action, it must be open to for anyone who would like to attend.
Colorado and communities in Denver South also typically take the extra step of offering multiple channels for attending public meetings, from in-person to webcasts to even calling in on a conference line.
And at the local level constituents can have their voices heard in a variety of ways, and local officials are listening. Social media is one of the easiest ways to reach out, and effective, with 80 percent of congressional staffers saying just 10 social media posts on a topic would cause their office to take note.
And mayors want to talk to constituents. Call them, email them, find them on the street — they’ll listen to what you have to say. In fact, the country’s mayors are asking Millennials to get ahold of them.
This kind of access and dialogue ensures the voice of the public is being heard, which makes getting public vote or sign off on big projects much more likely. And it’s generally only possible at the local level.
Give everyone a seat at the table
Big projects don’t get finished by one person, no matter how smart, talented or wealthy that single individual might be.
If you really want to do something big, it takes a multitude of stakeholders coming together with a shared vision. And sometimes, that means building bridges among communities with similar visions and obstacles.
The Denver South Economic Development Partnership (DSEDP) formed the Colorado Smart Cities Alliance in 2017 to help communities collectively adopt effective smart city technologies. The alliance includes more than a dozen Front Range municipalities, like Lone Tree and Greenwood Village, and all the way up to Boulder.
But the alliance didn’t stop with communities signing on. For it to truly work, the alliance also needs business leadership, which where advisors like Arrow Electronics have agreed to sign on.
Despite the fact that these communities all have different challenges to address through smart city technology, they recognize that the fastest way there isn’t alone. Bringing in business leadership, domain experts and the opinion of the public is all part of the Smart Cities Alliance approach, and by giving everyone an equal voice, disparate viewpoints start to find common ground.
That’s the space where big things can happen.
Think long term
Local governments are tasked with some of the most crucial aspects of our everyday lives: drinking water, transportation and safety, to name a few.
Clean water coming out of a faucet in Centennial might seem like magic, but it took a lot of foresight and teamwork behind the scenes. And even now, local officials don’t simply sit back and pat themselves on the back for figuring it out, but must continually look 10, 20, 30 even 100 years down the road to consider what will be best for the community.
Good things happen when you can see not only the immediate benefits but benefits that grow exponentially over time. As DSEDP CEO and President Mike Fitzgerald might say, that’s how you get the dream machine started.
Denver South is already looking decades into the future to create sustainable communities capable of meeting the challenges of tomorrow. Transportation for America (T4America) recently announced that Centennial and DSEDP were chosen to participate in their Smart Cities Collaborative, which is focused on utilizing emerging technology to address transportation issues.
Today’s economy can feel overwhelming and unpredictable, but by working locally to address these big problems, the future starts to feel less like a scary mystery, and more like an open box of opportunities.
When good things happen, it’s often on the local level. When big projects get done, it’s usually at the local level. Local government has challenges just like any organization, but it can often provide a template for finding that perfect sweet spot where the magic of achieving big goals can happen.