Get Engaged: City Wants to Know How You Want To Communicate

The City of Hamilton wants to improve how it communicates with citizens. Following the challenges of the past few months cough cough Dialogue Partners cough cough, the City is looking for honest feedback from the community about how it communicates and methods/mediums of improvement.

This tweet is a great 140 character summary:

Twitter? Newspaper? … Pigeons? Tell the City of Hamilton your preferred method of communication tonight! http://t.co/1FD33w5lW6 #HamOnt

— Laura Beattie (@LauraBeattz) June 27, 2013

When/Where

Tonight
6:00pm – 9:00pm
Bennetto Community Centre
450 Hughson St N, Hamilton (between Burlington St and the CN tracks / James and John)

Livestream

I will livestream tonight’s discussion here:

City Hall, Why Bother?

(Note: just a reminder there is a disclosure above)

I’m exhausted from dealing with City Hall and the antics that occur with our City. I have little faith left in the current structure and powers at City Hall. Last Wednesday, I stood in front of City Council asking they improve procedures to ensure public meetings are posted and agendas are released online.

I have been forced to the verge of going to the Ontario Ombudsman numerous times before City Clerks would release public agendas. I stood in front of Council in the hopes of avoiding an embarrassing complaint against the City. Instead of taking the opportunity to review improvements to how City Council engages with citizens, some members of Council took the opportunity to attack my character and the City Clerk engaged in semantic hair-splitting word games.

To say I left that meeting discouraged with City Hall and believing their is no point engaging with this current Council is an understatement – I’ve all but given up on the processes available to me as a citizen.

It’s our City, we can’t allow our City Hall to continue failing to communicate with us.

Why I’m Engaging in this Workshop

Firstly, because it’s my City Hall. It’s not enough to say I tried, tried again, and then tried some more, failed and there’s no point in trying.

This workshop is being organized by the City Manager’s Office, one of the parts of City Hall I continued to have confidence in.

The City hired a competent external communications expert, Dr. Alex Sevigny, to coordinate and facilitate the process. Sevigny knows Hamilton. He knows where communications practice is now and heading to in the future. He knows how to do this job.

The City has been diligent in setting up this event and created the foundations for a proper dialogue about City communications.

What I seek from the Workshop

I expect Sevigny and City staff to produce a strong communications strategy that includes use of online platforms (Twitter) and open APIs to communicate information to citizens, especially during emergency situations that occur outside of the 9-5 routine of City Hall.

The City of Hamilton should start meeting minimal standards of transparency in the short-term and create a plan to significantly exceed standards in transparency and communications by 2015.

I have confidence the City staff involved, specifically Corporate Communications Manager Michael Kirkopoulos, and Sevigny will produce a communications plan to recommend to Council that provides fearless advice to get City Hall communications strategies aligned with the community’s standards.

Will this Council adopt such a plan? I don’t know. If they don’t, there will be a plan the next Council can quickly and easily implement.

Why You Should Engage

Simply put – it’s your City, have your say.

Each one of us communicates differently and the City’s new communication strategy needs to reflect how you engage with the City.

Don’t let me, and people who think like me, be the only ones speaking up. I’m at City Hall every day, I live downtown, I’ve always lived within an urban setting, I’m attached to my smartphone 24/7, and I never disconnect – if you’re not an insane news junkie like me, you’ll probably want to ensure you are represented.

It’s our City and none of us wants to see another Dialogue Partners fiasco.