It’s not only about technology…

In our conversations with District Managers and Community Board members, several topics came up that we’re not addressing in this report.

Community Boards face challenges shared by other government and planning entities in the city. People’s willingness and capacity to participate is affected by factors beyond anything Boards can do. Citizens tend to be more engaged and are more likely to react to what they conceive as a potential negative impact on their surroundings. It is difficult to engage the public in aspirational initiatives. People are more inclined to be reactive than proactive. Therefore, the “negative” voices are heard more often than the “positive” ones.

Community Boards do not have the resources to do everything they want to do, ranging from core tasks to “extra” functions. They are required to review and advise on land use matters, assess needs for the City budget, and assist in municipal service delivery. In addition, they initiate new projects and plans, and make an effort to engage the community in all these processes.

Boards’ annual budget is typically around $200,000, covering staff salaries and operational expenses. Some Boards have a “friends-of” external account or non-profit to expand their budget. Paid staff is usually limited to 2-4 people, including the District Manager. Up to 50 volunteers serve as members.