This article is concerned with neighborhood governance reflecting a policy agenda which identifies the 'neighborhood' as a significant space for democratic renewal. But how is democracy understood and practiced? Many neighborhood policy programs are sponsored by central or local government and public managers have an important role in translating policy into local practice. Using a critical discourse analytic framework we examine actual examples of public managers' descriptions of their governance arrangements to elaborate their understandings and interpretations of democracy. Examples are taken from interviews in neighborhood renewal schemes in Birmingham and Copenhagen. Analysis suggests that in the cases examined here the democratic devices associated with different ideal-types of neighborhood governance presented both actual and potential dilemmas for public managers or became lost amongst other more immediate concerns for each project. This suggests that the democratic element of neighborhood governance may need even more clear conceptual work and more forceful advocacy.