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By Roz Rogoff

About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

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Communications Workshop

Uploaded: Jul 8, 2012
The City Council is holding a Communications Workshop at 5 pm July 10th. It is open to the public and I plan to attend. Here's a list of topics from the Workshop Agenda online.

4.1 Social Media – Presentation
4.2 City Website Redesign – Discussion
4.3 City Quarterly Newsletter – Discussion
4.4 Contra Costa Television – Update - Discussion
4.5 Emergency Communications – Discussion
4.6 Public Information Officer – Discussion

Since this blog is for my opinions, I'll give you some of my opinions on the list of topics above. I will attend the Workshop and add my inflated 3 cents, but I could change my mind on any of these things after the Workshop.

4.1 Social Media usually means Facebook and Twitter. I'm not fond of either, but I have user ID's on both. Is Facebook a good way for Staff to interact with residents or keep us updated? Should the Mayor or City Manager have Twitter accounts with messages telling us what they are doing every moment? Hmmm, I'm not so sure these are good ideas, but I'm old so maybe someone younger should weigh in on Social Media.

4.2 I don't consider Facebook a suitable replacement for the City's website, but the website needs updating and redesign. Parts of it are good and other parts are confusing or missing or link to pages that are no longer there or out of date. Staff and Departmental information should be kept in one section of the website and all in the same format. Publications should be in another section with links that work between them.

I like the list of meetings with links to Agendas. This is one of the most helpful features of the current website. The new Video on Demand page for City Council meetings is great too. The Search function used to work much better than it does now. I used to be able to find everything using Search, but now I can hardly find anything.

All of the Departmental websites should be coordinated to use the same format and work together. It's difficult to find contact information for everyone on Staff in one place. There are directories for different departments in different formats, which should be unified and improved.

4.3 The City Quarterly Newsletter, titled City Report, is a glossy, expensive throw-away. Newsletters shouldn't be what the City wants residents to know, but what residents need to know. The City Report should be discontinued. Notices of meetings and important issues should be mailed out as needed on plain paper and posted on the website and in the Social Media to give them as much exposure as possible. We shouldn't keep wasting money on a slick Newsletter that looks too much like city spin.

Encore! the Senior Newsletter is great. This is full of useful information. Encore! is something residents, especially seniors like me, actually open and read and keep.

The quarterly Recreation Guide is another informative publication that is worth the paper it is printed on. Normally I would say just post this information online, but the magazine-like format lends itself to keeping it handy for reference.

4.4 We already know that San Ramon has dropped out of TV30 and will be broadcasting Council Meetings and the Mayor's Report on Contra Costa County TV and the City's website. It looks like San Ramon has finally decided to join Contra Costa County.

4.5 The Emergency Communications system is an area-wide means of communicating among all of the first responders in the region. Mayor Abram Wilson and Mayors and Councils of neighboring cities put this together after 9/11. I don't know a lot about how it works, but from what I understand it is the first of its kind as a regional emergency system with everyone literally on the same wave length. I'm not sure what will be discussed in the Workshop, but I'm looking forward to finding out more about it.

4.6 In 2006 I wrote a commentary on the need for a Public Information Officer (PIO). Mayor Wilson told me he is the voice of the City and either he or the City Manager is the spokesperson. I disagreed in my commentary that week,"[The City Manager is too busy running the City to be sending out press releases, going on interviews with newspapers and TV, and answering every resident who has a request or complaint. City staff has other jobs to do. The City needs one central focal point for information to the public."

On the other hand, we don't need some slick spokesperson who is out to spin whatever story is going around and powder puff over bad news. Maybe we need a Snapple Lady, like Wendy Kaufman who could probably use a job right now, who will answer residents' questions and provide folksy feedback on issues, wants, and concerns.

Last December after Bill Clarkson and Phil O'Loane were elected to the City Council I wrote a commentary asking how items are put onto a meeting Agenda. I attended the next meeting and asked for a policy on how items are put on the Agenda and that this policy included feedback to whoever asked for something on the status of it. I never received any feedback on my request for feedback.

The Contact Us page on the website requires a staff member get back to whomever posts a question or request, but the City Council isn't required to give us any feedback at all. I resent that.

I try to provide feedback to my readers and my students. In fact University of Phoenix instructors are required to respond within 24 hours of receiving a question from a student. I suggested that any question brought up in Public Comment be input into the Online Contact Us system by the City Clerk, to get back to the person who asked it. I intend to ask for this again at the Communications Workshop. Let's see if I get an answer this time.
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