Ethical issues in an influenza pandemic often require local government officials to make unprecedented, complex decisions. Effective planning with significant input from key community stakeholders is required well ahead of time in order to anticipate and mitigate a serious health crisis. The author evaluates the pandemic plans of 28 large cities across the United States using criteria derived from guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The analysis reveals that planning legitimacy can be enhanced by wider transparency and civic engagement, greater opportunities for the inclusion of all stakeholders in decision making, mock community-wide exercises and drills, as well as more public access to comprehensive emergency planning information.