City Council Looks to Expand Community/Government Engagement

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People living in Charlottesville may have a new way to communicate with the government as early as next year. City Council is looking to expand its community engagement 'toolbox'.

City Council is looking into ways to increase community input and feedback. Council says there are a variety of reasons people can't or don't communicate, so the more options available, the better.

Now, council is considering two different systems for community involvement.

"There are some people who may not be able to get to an evening meeting, they may work or for whatever reason and so we're looking for ways to reach the maximum number of folks,” said Kristin Szakos, city councilor.

One idea is a 311 phone call system.

"It will allow the citizens to become engaged in a slightly different way, not only with decisions. Another aspect of it is that the eyes and ears of the community can contribute to areas that need improvement, so anything as little as there's some broken glass on your walk you come across, you could report that. What it would allow us to do is then channel the information to the appropriate department,” said Dede Smith, city councilor.

Another idea is an online forum.

"So one idea is this online sort of community where people can actually have a conversation with each other, bring forth ideas, comment on ideas that we bring out, as a real way to kind of get a little deeper into community engagement,” said Szakos.

Planning is just in the beginning stages, with one goal in mind.

"I think the outcome would be that we would have better communication, more varied communication, that we would reach a broader segment of the population, because representation from all of the different sectors of our community is important,” said Smith.

The project could cost anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000. Council members say they're looking into the idea of joining up with other government agencies in central Virginia for the 311 idea to bring the cost down.

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