City of Meridian Launches Technology Solutions to Increase Transparency and Convenience for the Public
The City of Meridian has launched a number of new and improved technologies and platforms to give the public easier and more transparent access to City information.
The most recent addition, and the first City in the state to do so, gives citizens the opportunity to sign up to testify for a public hearing once the agenda for that meeting is published on the City’s website. In addition, those who attend City Council as well as Planning and Zoning Commission meetings will utilize the same online system by signing up on an iPad to testify during a public hearing, instead of using paper and pen (see photos below). Also at the meetings, the City will have cards with a QR code to allow citizens to use their own smartphones to sign up to provide testimony (rather than using the iPad).
“We’re not only simplifying the process by offering it all online, but for the first time, citizens will now have the opportunity to sign up before they even arrive at the meeting. This will allow for greater flexibility and convenience in the entire public testimony process,” said C.Jay Coles, Meridian City Clerk.
Another new update to meetings is a proposed budget enhancement for Fiscal Year 2019 that would allow the City to take public testimony via online video.
“We are seeing more people watch meetings online and we are working to make them be more of an active participant. Since we know it isn’t always possible for residents to attend meetings in person, we hope this will give them the ability to participate in conversations on the public record,” said Chief of Staff Robert Simison, City of Meridian.
The public will weigh in on the proposed budget on Tuesday, August 21 and if approved by City Council, the City Council chambers audio visual system would be modified to allow for this service.
Here’s a look at other technology solutions the City has implemented in order to make local government easier to access for the community:
COMMISSION MEETING LIVE STREAMS
This year the City began live streaming commission meetings. The City has been live streaming city council meetings for a few years now, but wanted to make commission meetings easy to view as well. Citizens can sign up for notifications or view the live streams as well as videos of these meetings at youtube.com/cityofmeridian or access the YouTube page via the City’s homepage, meridiancity.org.
NOTICING ON NEXTDOOR
Another first in the state, in an effort to make more citizens aware of public hearings at council meetings, the City is utilizing the social media platform NextDoor to post notices. Since NextDoor launched in Meridian in 2014, the number of households who utilize the platform has grown to more than 20,000.
“One of our goals in the City’s Strategic Plan is to increase engagement and participation with citizens in the planning, operations, and decision making processes of the City. Posting these notices on NextDoor is a great addition and step in that direction - and is also in direct response to feedback we received from our citizens,” said Mayor Tammy de Weerd, City of Meridian.
If a neighborhood falls within an identified area of a proposed property, residents will see a notice on their timeline with information about the project application.
The City is also posting public hearing notices online. At any given time the public may access these hearing notices in order to see what projects are scheduled for both Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council. This is all in addition to post cards that are mailed to residents within either 300 or 1,000 feet of a proposed development (radius notice is dependent on the type of development) and signs posted on site ahead of the hearings.
PUBLIC RECORDS REQUESTS AND CITY DOCUMENTS
Public records are now easier to request, receive, and view, thanks to a new online portal and new software that allows for a quicker turnaround time, as it permits better tracking and visibility for the staff involved.
The City also now utilizes Novus agenda, a meeting management and agenda software that allows for easier access to City Council agendas and associated meeting documents.
“Transparency and ease of getting information is a key component to our strategic focus of being a responsive government,” said Mayor Tammy. “These new technologies make it easier for citizens to access information - creating a more streamlined, effective flow of information between the City and our residents.”