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Heads Up! - Aug. 9, 2018

Aug. 9, 2018

Dear City Council Members,

Update on remote council participation pilot

As you know, the city has been piloting both technology and a process to allow community members to participate in the open comment portion of City Council meetings by telephone. The first test occurred at the June 5 meeting, and opportunities have been available for participation in this form at two subsequent meetings.

The pilot has confirmed this service is technologically feasible. Using current resources and infrastructure in Council Chambers, city staff has been successful in connecting council with callers. In evaluating the success of a pilot, however, it is also helpful to understand the resources required to support the work, as well as the community’s interest in an alternative form of participation.

The following is a snapshot:

  • June 5 meeting: Two people signed up for pilot; one opted out just before meeting and testified to council in person.
  • June 19 meeting: No one signed up for the pilot.

Over council recess, Communication staff increased publicity around this opportunity, posting to social media and leveraging other platforms in hopes of making a broader audience aware of the call-in option.

  • July 17 meeting: Three people signed up for the pilot. One testified. One dropped off the call before his/her name was called to speak. The third never joined the call. (As a reminder, three is the maximum number of remote participants allowed per meeting, based on input from the Council Agenda Committee).

Support for this pilot has required one additional staff person to attend council meetings, at least through open comment, when individuals have signed up, as well as about two hours of administrative time prior to each meeting to ensure the system is enabled and to prepare the callers for what to expect.

This is a small sample size, and it is difficult to know what it means in terms of ongoing community interest in this alternative participation approach.

The multi-departmental staff team working on this effort is proposing council continue the pilot through its Oct. 16 meeting. Based on the current council calendar, this would mean the call-in option would be made available at five more regularly scheduled council sessions.

During this time, the Communication Department will continue to publicize the option, and the team will create a post-process survey to seek the input of participants. The participation goal the city will strive for during this time is actual testimony from a minimum of 12 participants over the five meetings.

If that goal is reached, staff will seek further direction from council about how to proceed. If it is not reached, it will be staff’s recommendation that we either reconsider the program’s current design or discontinue the pilot.

If you have questions or concerns about this plan, please contact Chief Innovation Officer Julia Richman or Engagement Manager Sarah Huntley.



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