Our Opinion: Austin City Council should focus on communicationPublished 9:10am Wednesday, October 23, 2013
While we applaud the Austin City Council for continuing to stick to its informal meetings, we are discouraged by the potential shift in “Conversations with the Council,” and we hope our elected officials put more focus on the way they communicate with residents.
The council’s “Conversation with the Council” initiative was born last year out of a desire to connect with residents who may not know the best way to make their voices heard. The meetings have gone through highs and lows, but the council is wise to continue its efforts to reach out to citizens.
Council members decided last month to switch the meeting times from Saturdays to a half hour before its bimonthly public meetings. Thus far, only two people attended one of the recent meetings, and no one has attended the last two.
Yet the council’s recent discussion on whether to switch back to Saturdays is troubling. It may get more people back to the meetings, but it reflects a lack of planning in the city’s communications efforts.
Yes, the council is continuing to hold meetings, but yet another switch in a storied history of changes to “Conversation with the Council” will leave more citizens confused on how best to approach their council members.
What the council needs to do is focus on its communications plan. The city is already part of a rebranding effort lead by community volunteers, but city officials need to take action on building better overall communication. If not for the Daily Herald and a few newsletters, some residents may not know “Conversations with the Council” switched times last month.
The council needs to stick to a permanent “Conversations with the Council” time. They need to instruct city staff to make the city’s web site more user friendly, and to ramp up its social media interaction with residents. Elected officials are always encouraged to write columns in the Herald, and should take advantage of this opportunity more often.
The council is commendable in its persistent support of “Conversations with the Council.” It needs to form and stick to a solid communications plan, however, if it wants to truly reach residents.