Budget Blog Series: Communications and Community Engagement Activities
By: Melissa Stevenson Diaz, City Manager, City of Redwood City
Our City motto is ‘Building a Great Community Together’. Day in and day out, we partner with schools, non-profits, health care providers, businesses and other government agencies to enhance the well-being of all members of our community. We work closely with residents to provide opportunities to gather, celebrate, reflect, and shape the future of our community. With the FY 2016–2017 budget, we want to strengthen and expand opportunities for community members to be involved and contribute to the vibrancy of Redwood City.
This blog highlights some of the City’s current communications and community engagement tools to increase participation in decision making and community life, and shares some of the initiatives and programs we will be focusing on next fiscal year.
COMMUNITY SATISFACTION SURVEY
Last July, the City launched a Community Satisfaction Survey to gain input from the community and assess overall perceptions of living in Redwood City; gauge satisfaction with the City’s performance in providing services and programs; and gather resident feedback on community members’ sense of community, as well as City services and programs.
The survey results are used to evaluate improvements to City services and programs, explore changes in ways the City communicates with the community and assist departments in evaluating new initiatives, services and programs.
For a summary of the survey results, click here.
NEW CITY WEBSITE
Last fall, the City launched a new municipal website to help share service and program information. The City’s website sees about 50,000 unique visitors each month. The improvements made to the website address various City goals including enhancing user functionality, advancing the City’s brand, strengthening the user experience and creating an engaging, interactive portal for the public, building a social media springboard and providing elements of a virtual City Hall.
With the new website, the City is expanding the use of online surveys to gain input on various City services and upcoming policy issues. We have recently issued surveys seeking feedback on retail desired downtown, on policies for expanding construction of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), on a parking meter pilot program and many others topics.
CITY SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE
The City started an official Facebook page last June and has over 1,673 likes with an average weekly reach of 5,000. The City also uses Twitter to share information and has 3,341 followers with an average daily reach of 1,800. A series of digital newsletters (or “enews”) offer targeted information to address different community interests, reaching over 19,000 subscribers. The weekly enews, which includes a round-up of community updates and events, has seen an average open rate of 30% and the new Downtown enews has seen an average open rate of 35%. The City is now on Next Door with over 12,000 subscribers and has an Instagram account with 436 followers.
In January, the City began a focused effort to invite community members to participate in major topics being discussed by the City Council. This new campaign called ‘Join the Conversation’ has its own webpage which is updated regularly with new information. The goal of this effort is to provide greater advance notice of upcoming topics with the set objective of encouraging input and community participation. Since January, this campaign has reached over 12,000 people via Facebook with over 850 engagements including comments and shares, gained over 600 engagements on Twitter, received over 600 views of the City’s YouTube ‘Join the Conversation’ video and received over 5700 unique views of the City’s blog posts on this topic.
The City also launched a new blog series ‘Tell a Friend Thursdays’ to answer questions from the public about City programs, projects and initiatives. The medium.com blog site called Redwood City Voice is created to share other City service information and stories on a regular basis.
For ways to connect with the City of Redwood City, visit here.
DEPARTMENT SPECIFIC COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
Many City departments lead community engagement opportunities and community building programs. The list below illustrates some of our current community engagement activities.
City Clerk’s Office: Supports City Council and Town Hall meetings, and Boards, Commissions and Committee volunteer engagement, and provides City Council voting summaries for every City Council meeting.
City Manager’s Office: Provides leadership for community engagement activities including administering a community involvement grant program, supporting the Pride and Beautification Committee, partnering with and investing in Redwood City 2020, supporting Community Schools (through Redwood City 2020), maintaining relationships with school districts, Canada College and Stanford University, and assisting neighborhood associations. The City also works with Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center to provide community building workshops, mediation services, leadership training and community meeting facilitation.
Community Development Department: Conducts public hearings, community meetings, and surveys to solicit input on proposed development projects, roadwork, traffic calming measures and traffic studies. The Department also provides updates on development projects on the City’s website. To view the development projects page, click here. The City also offers a new online tool to search planning and permit applications and subscription is available to receive updates by neighborhood. Details on this tool can be found here.
Fire Department: Offers a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program and ‘Are you Ready?’ program, and visits schools.
Library: Provides Project READ, hosts community service programs and information sharing forums and supports the ‘Socios for Success’ partnership.
Parks, Recreation, Community Services: Conducts outreach and visioning meetings for parks renovations, provides summer events and volunteer opportunities, and supports the Teen Advisory and Youth Advisory Boards.
Police Department: Offers the Parent Project program, Citizens Academy, Neighborhood Watch Program as well as casual discussion opportunities through Coffee with Cops.
Public Works: Leads water conservation and recycled water outreach programs, environmental programs and discusses public works services and programs at various Neighborhood Association meetings.
OTHER KEY ACTIVITIES
In April, as part of the FY 2016–2017 budget development discussion, the City Council supported increased community engagement, particularly around policy discussions, civil dialogue and neighborhood-based community building.
Some key activities underway or recommended for FY 16–17 are noted below:
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
City Council budget discussions are scheduled for June 13 and June 27 at their regularly scheduled City Council meetings beginning at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
To Join the Conversation and provide input into the proposed Fiscal Year 2016–2017 Operating and Capital budgets, visit here for details and share your thoughts!
PAST BUDGET BLOG SERIES ARTICLES
Click here for By the Numbers, a general introduction to the City of Redwood City’s budget.
Click here for a summary of Redwood City’s Transportation and Infrastructure Planning efforts.
Click here for a summary of Redwood City’s Affordable Housing efforts.
Click here for a summary of Redwood City’s Police and Fire Services