Public hearings as an institution of deliberative democracy in major Russian and American cities

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Author: Andrey Fursov

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2021-1-59-83

Keywords: deliberative democracy; local government; municipal democracy; municipal law; participation; public hearings


Currently, public hearings are one of the most widespread forms of deliberative municipal democracy in Russia. This high level of demand, combined with critique of legal regulations and the practices for bringing this system to reality – justified, in the meantime, by its development (for example, by the Agency for Strategic Initiatives and the Public Chambers of the Russian Federation) of proposals for the correction of corresponding elements of the legal code – make both the study of Russian experiences in this sphere and comparative studies of legal regulations and practical usage of public hearings in Russia and abroad extremely relevant. This article is an attempt to make a contribution to this field of scientific study. If the appearance of public hearings in Russia as an institution of Russian municipal law is connected with the passing of the Federal Law of 6 October 2003 No.131-FZ, “On the general organisational principles of local government in the Russian Federation,” then in the United States, this institution has existed since the beginning of the 20th century, with mass adoption beginning in the 1960s. In this time, the United States has accumulated significant practical experience in the use of public hearings and their legal formulation. Both countries are large federal states, with their own regional specifics and diversity, the presence of three levels of public authority and different principles of federalism, which cause differences in the legal regulation of municipal public hearings. For this reason, this article undertakes a comparative legal analysis of Russian and American experiences of legal regulation and practical use of public hearings, on the example of several major municipalities – the cities of Novosibirsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Voronezh and New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. A comparison of laws influencing the public hearing processes in these cities is advisable, given the colossal growth in the role of city centers in the industrial and post-industrial eras. Cities in particular are the primary centers for economic growth, the spread of innovations, progressive public policy and the living environment for the majority of both Russian and American citizens. The cities under research are one of the largest municipalities in the two countries by population, and on such a scale, the problem of involving residents in solving local issues is especially acute. In this context, improving traditional institutions of public participation is a timely challenge for the legislator, and the experiences of these cities are worth describing. The unique Russian context for legal regulations of public hearings involves the combination of overarching federal law and specific municipal decrees that regulate the hearing process. There are usually two municipal acts regulating public hearings on general issues of the city district (charter, budget, etc.) and separately on urban planning. In the United States, the primary regulation of public hearings is assigned to the state and municipality level, with a whole series of corresponding laws and statutes; meanwhile, methodological recommendations play a specific role in the organisation of hearings, which are issued by the state department of a given state. It is proposed that regulating the corresponding relationships at the federal subject level will permit a combination of the best practices of legal administration with local nuances, thereby reinforcing the guarantee of the realization of civil rights to self-government. There are other features in the process of organizing and conducting public hearings in the United States, which, as shown in the article, can be perceived by Russian lawmakers as well in order to create an updated construct of public discussions at the local level.

About the author: Andrey Fursov – Ph.D. Student, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Fursov A. (2021) Publichnye slushaniya kak institut deliberativnoy demokratii v krupneyshikh munitsipalitetakh Rossii i SShA [Public hearings as an institution of deliberative democracy in major Russian and American cities]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.30, no.1, pp.59–83. (In Russian).


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