I think one of the weakness Berkley has had in recent years is lack of communication. Things are definitely improving since our new city manager came on board, but I think there is still more that can be done.
Communication isn't just getting information out, it is also listening to what people have to say.
- Involve the community earlier. Over the past year, I have seen where the only time for public input on an important issue is during a formal public hearing. This can be intimidating for many people and leaves little room for a productive dialog among parties. Instead, we should use other techniques to get public input well before it is time to take a vote.
- Office hours. Besides the other ways to contact me, I plan to have "office hours," probably at the library, where anyone can stop by and ask questions or let me know what their thoughts are on an issue.
There are steps the city can take to modernize its communication.
- Require electronic submission of plans. In today's digital world, there is no reason for the city not to require digital copies of plans for large projects.
- Put digital files on the website. Many documents could be placed on the city's website. This transparency allows residents to easily stay informed and reduces the work required to fulfill Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
- Get meeting packets out earlier. Our boards and city council often don't receive meeting documents until a few days before the meeting. That is not enough time for anyone to reasonably review the information.
- Change the newsletter format. The city's eNews is hard to read on mobile devices, yet that is what a large percentage of people use now. We might even consider weekly updates so that information is more timely.
Reaching People Not Online
As revolutionary as the Internet is, there are still a large number of people that aren't online or rarely use it. We shouldn't leave them behind.
- Send city updates with the water bill. We are already paying the postage to mail those out, so we should see if it is feasible to add one or two pages of information in with the bills.
- Signs for public hearings. When a property is the subject of a public hearing, such as rezoning, often the only notice is in the newspaper. A simple sign placed on the property for two weeks leading up to the hearing would be an easy and cheap way to notify everyone that goes by the parcel.
I love seeing how engaged people are in the city now. I want to continue to do my part by getting information out so we can have an informed public and get feedback from a wide spectrum of people. This will help us make the best decisions possible for Berkley.