I started a local history and issues forum in November. Outside of the admin (me), my co-founder, and two fake accounts, it currently has 43 bona fide members. There are occasional bursts of activity, but it is never sustained. Outside of the forums of our local corporate newspaper, there is no obvious competition for this kind of discussion in my city. I try to periodically kick up the dust with issues to discuss, but that is a hit-or-miss that misses a good majority of the time. My board has been linked to from various other blogs and sites, and was even mentioned in a local historical society newsletter a couple months back -- but none of this seems to driving much traffic. I also post in a local foodies discussion board, and while this has brought in a few members, they also haven't contributed yet. I've also posted some things up at coffee shops, cross-advertised with a local author (who happens to be the co-founder), continuously advertised in Craigslist, and occasionally linked back to my board from a very popular regional politics blog. But those approaches are apparently not helping much either.
One possible problem is that one person at one moment brought up the thought that the board has too many forums. Could this by itself be something that intimidates or drives away users? Is there a magic number of forums that should never be crossed?
Also, are there any specific approaches I can look into for stoking interest in a local issues board?