The Georgia Municipal Association posted a great article from Otis White on the purpose of a city:
Cities exist to create citizens. Not to generate economic gains (they do, but as a byproduct), or provide a home to the arts, entertainment or learning (again, byproducts), and certainly not to support a government (it’s a means to an end). I would argue that the real purpose of cities is to create a group of people who will take responsibility for their community. And it’s this willingness to accept responsibility that is the difference between a resident and a citizen.
I think we in government (and our residents) forget the ultimate purpose of what we do, which (for me) is to solve common problems that a single individual cannot solve on his or her own. Things like roads, libraries, building codes, and public safety. To do these things, citizens (not residents) formed collectives. We need to continue to reinvigorate our populations and create citizens who get back in the habit of looking out for the greater good and who help create a better place to live.
I don’t know if it is the responsibility of city managers or elected officials to create citizens. But we all need to do more.
I’m adding ‘creating citizens’ to my own mission in local government.