Hanford city hall has launched a new online feature to help inform residents about city projects and encourage online discussions and share ideas.
City Clerk Jennifer Gomez said the feature, called “Civic Voice,” went live last week. Gomez said she’s currently the only staff member working on the page, which attracted virtually no users in its first week.
The site is divided into three sections: projects, discussion and ideas. Those categories currently include a featured post asking citizens for ideas about how to revitalize downtown Hanford. There is also information about some city street projects and the upcoming Renaissance of Kings Faire.
Gomez said the downtown discussion was inspired by a recent council meeting. The other content came from various city departments.
“I think this would have been a good place to put information about the construction at The Plunge,” Gomez said, referring to the recent renovation that caused the public pool to open several weeks late.
Civic Voice is part of a contract the City Council approved earlier this year to improve how the city prepares and manages agendas for public meetings. The $1,878 monthly contract with Accela Legislative Management also includes a new electronic voting system that the council started using last month.
The City Council has been able to use the electronic voting feature for about the past month. Eric Forcey, the city’s Information Technology Manager, said he hopes to make the system available to all city commissions by the end of this month.
Rachel Fukaya, a spokeswoman for Accela, said Hanford is actually the first city to adopt the Civic Voice program, which debuted in April.
“Civic Voice is a brand new technology and add-on to our civic platform,” Fukaya said.
Unlike a simple Facebook page, Fukaya said, the program allows citizens and government to quickly exchange information and ideas about ongoing and future government activities.
The site can automatically filter inappropriate content, send alerts to the appropriate staff members depending on the topic and provide notification about trending topics.
Citizens have the option of leaving comments or sharing the post with friends via social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Providing citizens with a place to discuss issues that matter to them could help city officials better serve the community, Gomez said.
“If it’s something that [city] staff or the council never hear about, we’re never going to do anything about it,” Gomez said.
That being the case, Gomez said she doesn’t want Civic Voice to become a complaint system. Citizens with a particular concern about city services, such as a neglected pothole, should report the problem to the appropriate department.
Gomez distributed a handout promoting Civic Voice at the Sept. 1 City Council meeting. She said she’s working with the city finance department to include information with upcoming utility bills.