Most models of decision-making by government and elected officials follow the same basic pattern: identify the goals or problem, gather information, articulate alternatives, solicit input, decide, implement. More sophisticated models might include adaptive management elements (feedback loops from implementation back to refined or new decisions) or more robust community input (e.g., soliciting input at multiple steps ing the process). This is a perfectly rationale model that tells us very little about how decision making processes actually work.
In the real world, every step in every process is at least partly shaped by the politics and perspectives of the people involved. Each individual involved in the process brings their own vantage on what the goals are, what the problem is, and what the solutions are. Every constituency has its own values, interests, and agenda. In some cases (the more cynical among us might argue that it’s most), the community input is for show and doesn’t really impact the decision, either because the real contest is taking place out of the public view by the real power players or because the decision-makers already made up their mind before the process began, in which case the model needs to show a public participation process that is firewalled from the real decision process. In some cases, the decision-makers themselves influence the community participation to make sure that “the community” tells them what they wanted to hear. There are dozens of other variations on the theme – how decisions are really made by government and elected officials – most of which involve relationships and politics and power dynamics not captured by the simple, rational, and very linear model.
If you want to do a good job of facilitating a decision-making process, or influencing the outcome, you’d better understand how the decision is really being made.