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Critical Research on the Management of Public Engagement, Vol. 30 - 2023, No. 3

Guest Edited by Ed McLuskie

The Weaponisation of Public Comment Rules in Policy Deliberations

, , pages: 377-391

The Covid-19 pandemic heightened already intense and increased scrutiny of public education in recent years. The administrative impulse to stage community engagement efforts to deliberate upon these questions, however well-intentioned, rarely realises full community engagement and reflection. Based on an examination of public engagement events held at Florida schools related to the Covid-19 health crisis, the proposed essay identifies a more concerning transformation of “public comment” into a weaponisable prop for lawmakers seeking the public legitimacy necessary for their agenda, marrying the worlds of critical studies with those of public administration and its orientations. More than merely failing to genuinely engage the public, we argue that such events forestall a more productive arrangement of the democratic form that does not rely on publicness and the leader that secures that space. Ultimately, we suggest a path that affords the possibility of public engagement, but that does not seal off the possibility of that more radical democratic future to come.

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