Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Open Mike, Black Hole

The Richardson City Council's Statement of Goals (pages 9-28 of this handout from the August 29 city council meeting) is full of noble ambitions, but it will be the list of near-term action items that city residents really should pay attention to. Those are the items most likely to show up on the council's meeting agenda sometime in the next two years.

After the jump, a suggestion for one easily achievable near-term action item regarding communication.

The Statement of Goals contains a whole page on Communication. It defines an objective "to foster a meaningful flow of information and two-way dialogue with key stakeholders." It defines a strategy to "elevate the City's communications to effectively inform and deeply engage Richardson residents, businesses, employees, and visitors."

"Two-way dialogue." "Deeply engage Richardson residents." Who can read these goals and reconcile them with what happens each Monday night as Richardson residents, one by one, march up to the microphone in front of the council members' horseshoe bench and earnestly question, complain, appeal, suggest, rant and, yes, even compliment, the city, the city staff, and our elected officials?

Watch the exercise. It's a black hole. State law may forbid the council from deliberating then and there any issues raised by the public in this exercise, but state law certainly doesn't forbid the city from following up on the inputs later.

I've blogged about this before (for example, see here). More recently, I've blogged about one input given to the council by a Richardson resident, Andrew Laska. It was a suggestion for Richardson's goals and action items (so, it's both timely and important). It's input that I largely agree with and want the city to consider and act on. But is there anything like that happening? Beats me. Input by individual residents during the "visitors" section of council meetings falls into a black hole, never to be seen in public again. At best, a private acknowledgment might be composed. "Two-way dialogue?" "Deeply engage Richardson residents?" Hello!!!

OK, back to the suggestion for one easily achievable near-term action item regarding communication. It's not new. Here's what I said last October. Maybe it's more timely now, as the council puts together its near-term action items. Is it likely to be acted on? Who knows?

"An easy step to take is for the city manager to publicly post a written response to every visitor who takes the time to raise an issue at council meetings. The city duly notes what the issues are in the minutes of each city council meeting. The city should publicly post an official response as well. Dedicate a section of the city's Website for this purpose."

How about it, City of Richardson? It's low-hanging fruit in support of those Goals you spent so much time developing. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

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