UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Working toward the public interest: integrating public and policy Hoff, Terry D.


The issue of public involvement in public policy planning is of fundamental importance for professional planners, public policy, and ultimately a problem of democratic governance. However, despite the attention given to this issue in literature and in practice, there is little agreement on the theoretical basis of public involvement and little consistency in the application of public involvement in professional practice. Planners have a responsibility to consider the ways in which their policy planning actions contribute to the public interest. How planners deal with this responsibility is both a matter of personal commitment and a matter of professional strategy. This thesis concludes that policy planning should be ethically purposeful in pursuing democratic ideals, yet strategic and pragmatic in being relevant to nature of the policy issue and specific policy situation. To achieve these objectives policy planning should be procedurally and substantively responsive to the publics directly affected by the policy issue. Procedurally affected publics should have a fair opportunity to express their values and interests regarding policy issues; substantively, planners should respect citizen's values and their context-specific knowledge of issues and potential policy actions. However, within the policy environment of local government, planners must also serve the decision making responsibilities of elected representatives, and promote the efficiency of public administration. The political and administrative context of policy planning offers both constraints and opportunities for public involvement. Planners must pragmatically adapt to the conditions of the policy environment in order to reconcile their often conflicting obligations to political superiors and the general public interest. Planners do have the ability to influence the process and content of public policy, and should employ this influence to promote the responsiveness of public institutions and public policy to the public. While responsiveness to affected publics does not guarantee policy success, this study concludes that the purposeful and strategic role of public involvement can both enhance the accountability of policy to the public, and reconcile the planner’s obligations to political superiors.

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