The Hamilton City Council meeting Wednesday will be at the usual time — 6 p.m. — but at a different location than usual: the Wilks Conference Center at Miami University Hamilton.
John Forren, with MUH’s Department of Justice & Community Services, said the meeting, which is expected to be attended by dozens of Miami students and more-than-usual Hamilton residents, will help more people increase their political engagement.
“That’s the premise of what we’re doing,” Forren said. “Studies have shown that fewer than one in 10 Americans have ever attended a meeting of a government agency or a government body.”
The on-campus council meeting is part of Miami’s Citizenship and Democracy Week, which is aimed at helping people see government in action.
“To see how government works, how politics works, and to basically get people thinking about what it means to live in a democracy and what it means to participate in government, and politics,” Forren said in describing the week of specially-planned events.
This is the third year of having such programs. Last year’s Hamilton council meeting on campus featured an overflow crowd, because residents whose basements had recently been flooded turned out to express their concerns and urge city leaders to help solve the ongoing problem.
“The reaction’s been very positive” from participants, Forren said. “Not only positive reaction as in they enjoyed it and they have a better understanding of how these things work, but actually we’ve done a little bit of research on the effects of participating.”
According to Forren, there is research that when someone witnesses government in action, or attends a government meeting, they are more likely to be more active citizens.
Last year’s participants in a survey “said that they’re more likely to vote now, more likely to go to government meetings and contact their elected officials, and do those things that are a part of active citizenship,” he said.
“As a public university, we see it as part of our mission to try to increase public participation and civic engagement,” Forren said.