Facilitating A Community Dialog On The Internet

The City of Oak Harbor, Washington is giving residents a chance to sound off about planning and development issues on several blogs.

"Oak Harbor City Planners Rob Voigt and Cac Kamak have voluntarily expanded their job duties to create an inviting cyber-environment where residents can engage in open and candid discourse on local issues.

Using the Internet as a conduit for information, the two city employees developed options for augmenting public outreach and education. Through blogging, they have created an outlet with multifarious benefits for citizens. Residents can sound off on a variety of proposed amendments or city projects while being inadvertently educated through in-depth and sometimes tangential exposition.

"This way you address more issues," Voigt said. "The overriding common themes are facilitating public engagement, communication through multimedia and ‘action research' where participants guide the process."

Blogging is essentially a chronological, electronic journal that allows users to post opinions, suggestions or simple thoughts at their leisure.

"It's like a virtual, on-demand city hall," Kamak said. "People can chime in at anytime and have their issues addressed."

The sites eventually take on a life of their own as postings grow like branches on a tree, each contribution guiding the discussion in different directions.

"A blog establishes two-way conversation through the Web," Kamak said. "Phone conversations or face-to-face interaction are usually specific worktime events. Blogs can be used whenever someone has time. It removes the need to be in the same place at the same time."

Updated regularly and monitored by staff, Voigt has seen his subdivision blog - accessible at www.cohsubdivisions.blogspot.com - receive an increasing number of participants or hits compared to typical public hearings or workshops. People often observe and process the information before taking the plunge and offering their own views.

"As the safe and honest nature of the discussion is established, more of those people will begin posting comments of their own, thereby beginning the community dialog," the planner said."

Full Story: Communicating with the public

Comments

Comments

technology, communications and community engagement

Thanks for linking to the blog I created for the Subdivision Code Update here in Oak Harbor.
I am having great success with many aspects of this project: the blog; video reports; alternative meeting formats and presentations, etcetera.
I have also recently added a companion site (www.cohdelayered.blogspot.com) to present the findings of the first phase of the project - for this second blog I am also using mapping and graphic presentation methods that are improving communication for a relatively complex subject.
I would be happy to discuss these approaches, just send me an email - rvoigt@oakharbor.org

robert j voigt, senior planner, city of oak harbor

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