Sunday, September 28, 2014

Letter to S.R. Open Government Task Force


Thanks for inviting me to send to you some suggestions I’ve made earlier to your Open Government Task Force.  Because they were contributed through suggested edits to a list of OGTF meeting notes from early meetings, they could easily have been overlooked.  Or they may have been confusing, and hard to incorporate into a final list.

In any case, thanks for letting me try to be clear.

Create integrated public information content which resides on calendars, maps, video channels, and blogs contributed by the city and its partners. Organize the content from a strong base of trusted suppliers and managers who are committed to maintaining a useful and vibrant guide to the City’s public services and activities.

All over the City, well-meaning people spend many hours each day trying to inform our residents about opportunities to become involved.  Government, nonprofits, and business associations all seek the counsel of community members to guide public policy and issues.  Most of the required and official notices are published in scattered sites where few actually notice, and near the end of the time when its perceived that public contributions make any difference.  While citizens complain about not learning early and well enough, few processes exist to easily recruit early and collaborative participation.

1.  Integrate public, nonprofit, and business association meeting announcements into a master calendar, with links to agendas, background videos, and contact personnel.
2.  Make use of ongoing video city council segments which highlight city processes and services to develop an online Citizens Academy where residents can learn more about their City.
3.  Videotape every meeting held to further public business using low-cost Internet web-streaming and distributing by requiring wifi at all meeting locations, and posting links to the content produced on collaborative calendars, maps, video channels, websites, and Citizen Academy training websites.
4.  Make better use of educational institution students and curriculum to improve the capabilities of the city to engage the community, and to prepare young residents for lives of civic participation.  High School, junior college, and SSU digital media classes should become strong partners with the City in its efforts to effect change in civic participation.

I am working on specific tools and resources within Santa Rosa Together’s own calendars, maps, video channels, and blogs which demonstrate the recommendations outlined above.  I am also working with Santa Rosa City staff in the IT and City Manager’s Office to bring about incremental changes consisted with these recommendations.  What is needed is a clear and powerful endorsement by the Open Government Task Force of the direction and goals indicate above.  Only that will proved the City with measurable objectives and a strong focus for change.

These suggestion are based on my belief that our citizens would become more engaged with their city if they knew more about what was happening, and could make use of a well-organized system of public information organized within the City’s overview.  I hope these suggestions prove helpful to your work.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Gregory Fearon
(707) 546-5771
2040 Elizabeth Way

Santa Rosa

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