City administrator reaches out to citizens
Senior Staff Writer
The City of Grass Valley wants residents know what’s up at City Hall.
The effort to show that local government cares began this week at an open town hall meeting, where all questions and comments were welcomed.
It will be followed with another open discussion at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 17 at the city’s fire station at 213 Sierra College Drive, and two per year thereafter.
The effort also includes an e-mail communications list residents can sign up for to receive meeting agendas, press releases and other communiques.
“The ongoing challenge for government is how to engage with the public,” City Administrator Dan Holler said Thursday. “How do you expand your outreach to the community?”
Through discussions with staff and council members, Holler decided to unveil the new policy, and is adamant that he wants approachable government in the city.
“It needs to be your City Hall. We want to get information directly to the people,” Holler said. “A survey the city did in 2006 showed 70 percent had Internet (and e-mail) access, and it’s probably higher now. I’d like to see 400 or 500 e-mails and open the dialogue.”
Normal City Council meetings are structured affairs, with public comment normally limited to three minutes to keep the meeting going, Holler said.
The open town hall meetings, such as this week’s, with no matters to vote on, will allow council and staff members to listen and learn what residents want.
“At the regular council meetings, you don’t get into that depth,” Holler said. “This helps keep that small-town feel” that Grass Valley residents want.
“I’ve always wanted a forum where people could come and talk,” said Vice Mayor Lisa Swarthout. “It’s good to get people out who aren’t (usually) engaged in the process. Typically, they come to meetings when something directly affects them.”
The vice mayor said the open policy will also have to show results to prove its mettle.
“When people know things are being addressed, they won’t be so fearful of local government,” she said.
An open town hall meeting was held several years ago, but it wasn’t run well and became a bit unwieldy, Swarthout said.
This week’s open meeting in the dining room of the Grass Valley Veterans Memorial Building occurred at a community location because Holler wants to get the gatherings out of City Hall.
“I want to come out to your neighborhood,” Holler said. “We may not give you the answer you want, but at least we’ll help you understand. Sometimes it’s just explaining bureaucracy and process.”
“I think it’s going to work out well,” Mayor Mark Johnson said. “This will be an opportunity to sit down with staff and council members.”
To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4237.
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