This Article analyzes the lack of civic engagement in local government decision-making and the problems that result from it. Public choice theory offers one explanation: dominant special interest groups capture local governments for their own private interests. Thus, average citizens are not only alienated from their local government, but they also find the barriers to entry into local politics too high for collective action and participation. While at first glance this account seems accurate, public choice theory's explanation of local governments has normative limitations because it fails to recognize these features of the local political process as problematic-much less to offer any solutions. Therefore, this Article suggests that we ought to reject this model of local government in favor of a model based on civic republicanism, which offers a solution to the problem of civic disengagement. Civic republicanism envisions local government substructures that provide meaningful opportunities for stakeholders to deliberate with one another regarding matters facing their community and thus inform the local decision-making process. This Article explores whether neighborhood councils-new substructures of local government that aim to involve citizens in policy- and decisionmaking processes-can improve civic engagement.

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