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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Popular attitudes toward urban issues : some observations Horsman, Albert L.


Problems in urban areas have expanded into new areas of public and private affairs. The available theories of urban genesis, structure, and growth have proved to be either inadequate as guides to understanding these problems, or irrelevant in the search for solutions. In particular, the urban-civic governmental structures and processes appear impotent when faced with the growing sense of a problem. An increasingly common proposal made in response to this condition is that the citizenry become more directly and authoritatively involved in the administration of the city. Various levels of government and branches of civic authority have encouraged and organized citizen participation in urban decision-making, and have sponsored and supported research into this contemporary trend. One such research project, the Vancouver Urban Futures Project, through one of its pilot programs, obtained some three hundred non-directed, taped interviews with citizens of the Greater Vancouver area. Several dimensions in these interviews were analyzed and the various conclusions reached constitute the core of this thesis. Specifically, we have presented interview material in ways which throw light on the questions of: the perception of urban issues found in the population; the characteristic groupings and oppositions found in the population; the degrees of competence displayed by the population; and the language—expression used by citizens when discussing various urban issues. We conclude that: the patterns of issue perception found in our sample, and in the sub-samples we abstracted from the aggregate record, match in array if not in priority detail those perceived by professional observers of the urban scene; the differences in perception and evaluation of issues and proposed solutions, at the present time, in only a few cases constitute conflict dichotomies; the conceptual if not the practical-operational competence of the population is in general equal to that commanded by professional and academic urbanologists; and the communication skills of the public are in all cases adequate for the conveyance of personal opinion, attitude and expectation to planners and urban theorists ready to listen. Consequently, we believe citizen participation can be confidently encouraged and welcomed as an ally in the struggle against elite-bound concepts of life. And we reject the fear that such an enlargement of constituency will lead to civic chaos or to a weakening of social cohesion. These findings have been discussed within the context of the enquiry into citizen participation and have been related to alternative modes of urban research. In particular, four fictional-hypothetical interviews are developed, each focussing upon a major attitudinal perspective apparent in the taped interviews. In assembling the four interviews, the words and phrases specifically present in the original taped interviews were relied upon exclusively. In conclusion, we have suggested that the environmental context of issues, as experienced, should be studied, as a way of broadening our understanding of the experiential reality of urban citizens, and the taped interview is recommended as a versatile, flexible research tool, capable of obtaining a rich fund of information preserved in a personal, humanistic form.

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