Thursday, October 29, 2015

City Sends out Survey on City Communications

As part of the  City's new Strategic Communications Plan, the City is circulating a survey on how you get information from the City.

Details on the project are somewhat scant, unfortunately.

If you search for "Strategic Communications Plan" on the City website, the only meaningful information is this cost estimate from May.

Budget Committee Meeting
As a line item buried in the budget, it also appears a couple of times in materials presented at Council, and improving City communications has long been an item in Council Goals, with additional development in the SCI program's Civic Engagement Strategy unit. An RFP seems to have been scrubbed from the City site. A contract or other formal announcement to proceed hasn't been shared.

Unlike many other City studies or planning processes, it doesn't yet have its own web page or additional materials.

A Pacific Northwest firm with offices in Boise, Seattle, and Portland, Enviroissues, has been engaged, and they are conducting preliminary interviews with the proverbial key stakeholders now. The survey comes a couple of weeks after these started.

Maybe it's a good time for it - communications seems to be in the air.

Over at SCV there's some consternation because the City is not doing a very good job, perhaps even in violate of our Open Meeting laws, of notifying people about the Police Station project.

And at Council on Monday there was some interesting public tension about the management of information and communication with Councilors themselves.

Apart from the usual problems of a citizenry that too often is not able to distinguish between the roles and funding of the School District, the City of Salem, and the Transit District, it seems like there are deeper ways that the flow of information is problematic right now.

And it seems possible to read the study either in a charitable or a cynical way.

So this is an interesting study. Will it result in more openness and transparency, and a more involved citizenry? Or will it result in more tightly controlled spin and management of information and framing?

Take the survey and let the City know what you think.

1 comment:

Susann Kaltwasser said...

Last Thursday at the NA chairpersons meeting the consultant lead about 10 NA representatives though a typical session where we were asked to answer a number of questions about how the city communicates with us. The questions were not the same as on the survey. I took copious notes, but have not typed them up yet, but plan to share them when I do.

We were told that the process would be combined with other outreach efforts and then put into a report. Been there and done that so many times before...only thing missing this time was the infamous 'dots'.

Apparently the City is well into a re-write of the City's website too. Staff mentioned an internal committee that is nearing completion of some of the elements, but they also are in the process of hiring a person to work on it, so it is not clear what is going on there.

I noted that the questionnaire had a couple of items on the website and it seemed odd that you would ask such a question if the re-write is well underway or near completion. I have a son who worked on writing websites for a number of years professionally and he tells me that the thing you do first is ask the customer what they like or need, before you ever begin, but then again that is just the opinion of a professional.

Anyway, of note at the NA meeting was the tone. The police came out drawing the most favorable comments and the council having the least favorable. I was a bit surprised that the mood was so universal. I thought is was just a few of us grumpy old geezers!

The sense is that there is a lot of work to be done at all levels. After 25 plus years of city involvement, it is disheartening to see the same process and yet little improvement.

Years ago the City used to have a Citizens Community Relations Advisory Board. Served on it for 7 years and we did a lot of good things, but even though it was all volunteer was cut. NA have also been cut back repeatedly. Seems a silly thing to turn your back on people who spend time and effort to make things better.

Seems also kind of silly to keep spending tax dollars that could do some good repairing pothole on yet another consultant to tell us what is obvious...again!