Sunday, November 18, 2007

Amanda Fritz is serious about citizen involvement and engagement

My list of reasons for supporting Amanda just keep growing. One of the great services that she has provided on her personal website is an ongoing piece called " Next up at City Council". It has helped me alot in being aware of what is happening in Portland, how the City is making its decisions and what those decisions are. Well, as City Commissioner, Amanda plans on continuing this service and even expanding upon it.Over at her campaign site, Amanda has posted descriptions of some of what will be available on her Commissioner site:

When I am a City Commissioner, three of the tabs on the front page of my web site will be "Next Up at City Council", "Coming Down the Pike", and "What was Done, What comes Next".

Next Up at City Council will have links to the Agenda, like the current series. There will be many more easy-to-find links to background documents and staff contact information (because I'll be able to find out that information, from the inside), and a quick "Give me your opinion on this" option because I'll want to know what you think. And, each Monday after I've heard the briefings from staff on the Agenda items, I'll post summaries on the lines of "This is what I've heard on this. This is what I'm thinking. These are the questions I'd like to know more about at the public hearing. Please comment/participate if you care."

Coming Down the Pike will be one-stop shopping for important issues being worked on in the bureaus I oversee. Too often now, citizens find out about public involvement processes too late to participate early enough to make a difference. And the City's web site is a maze where you have to know what you want to find, in order to find it. Part of my job as a City Commissioner will be making sure staff and citizens use time and resources efficiently and effectively, and work together on projects and policies.

What was Done, What comes Next is the third concept sorely lacking in City processes today. Citizens can find out the bare bones of the vote on items on previous Council agendas by going to the web site, but there is rarely any feedback from Council members about their votes - unless you have the time to attend the hearing or catch the rebroadcast on cable, which most people don't. Citizens who bother to give their opinion on City issues should be given more information about why their request was approved or denied. And when the City approves changes in policies or practices, there should be follow-up to make sure the changes work out as intended. Closing the loop - rarely done now. Should be done always. Will be, in my office.

I'm well aware that these plans won't knock the socks off most citizens. "Giving and gathering information to help citizens" sounds like something anyone could do. But nobody is providing these simple services currently. I will focus on basic needs that will help our city run more smoothly and efficiently, and make it easier for citizens to know what's going on. And to make a difference, if you want to.

Seems to me that something so simple should be a no-brainer for the Council but, as Amanda points out, no one has done it yet. Which is why I'm glad Amanda will be there to keep those folks grounded, not to mention continue to inspire the rest of us to get involved.

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