Submitted to the SEIU's sinceslicedbread.com:
To adress two problems -- the decline of communities and the polorazation -- I propose the creation local civic societies throughout the county. The societies, local non-profits, would be forums to discuss local issues and propose solutions, through polite discourse.
Their role wouldn't be to make decisions, but to advocate open communication between the government and citizens and between citizens. Civic societies are common in England (such as the Manchester Civic Society: www.manchestercivic.org.uk), or just Google "civic society."
The goals of civic societies can be summed up in two of Manchester's bullet points:
"To keep watch over the city as it changes, identifying and praising what is good, challenging and seeking to improve what is not good enough"
"To promote, through publications and public debate, a greater interest in Manchester, its neighbours, the challenges faced and the opportunities to be grasped"
The socieites would governed by a board of a few elected officials, but mostly private citizens. They would be funded through a 1 or 2 percent set aside from local government budgets.