Despite the importance of public input, Capital Metro’s ability to collect feedback from riders was limited. They did an exceptional job engaging residents through email, mail, social media, phone, and even in-person at public hearings or at transit locations; yet these feedback channels oftentimes lacked depth, quality, and measurabity. When faced by decreasing revenues and unstable economic conditions, the Board quickly realized it needed to improve the ways it solicits input from the public to help them prioritize and make tough decisions on their 2012 budget.
Legislative Management Suite, featuring Legistar, to run their agenda and minutes creation more efficiently. Appleton found that with this solution, integrated with other Granicus suites, they could be more transparent and accountable to their citizens by creating an online legislative research center for citizens, while saving staff time and money by streamlining their legislative workflow.
“I no longer call roll call votes; the responsibility is on the elected members. The meeting member interface allows the chair to open an item and call for a vote. It also gives members the ability to request to speak, make a motion, second, and vote,” she continues. Members vote simultaneously and can review results instantly through their touch-screen displays.
the ability to use key word search to find specific agenda items has shown some unexpected benefits. Deputy City Clerk Bill Dow would typically receive several hundred research requests per year, each taking 40 minutes on average. With Granicus, average request time has been cut by half.
Overwhelming information requests - Managing high volumes of incoming calls and requests for meeting recaps, legislative reports, and documents was a challenge. “We had no easy way to enable departments or the public to research what occurred during previous meetings. To fulfill information requests we had to dig through old cassette tapes, watch the television re-broadcast, or sift through large volumes of records,” says Herrera.
After introducing iLegislate, the benefits of migrating to iPads increased significantly. Maricopa was able to eliminate paper and increase the usability of their council agendas. With iLegislate, users don’t have to worry about data or productivity loss if they lose internet access. The app can be used offline and syncs automatically to the Granicus cloud. Other popular features include the ability to bookmark noteworthy agenda items, view extended agenda item details,
In 1987, Milwaukee implemented Legistar, Granicus’ Legislative Management Suite, to automate legislative recordkeeping, reporting, and research for council, 8 standing committees, and 22 other bodies. “We needed a system to manage the birth to death of a legislative file,” explains Leonhardt. Here are their key solution attributes:
Within days of the hurricane, New Orleans began city-wide planning and reorganization. “After Katrina the number of government and information meetings more than doubled. There was a lot of government action but not a lot of access to it,” says LeBlanc. Additionally, New Orleans witnessed a rise in citizen concern; residents wanted to stay informed on decisions directly affecting them and their community. Not only did residents speak up, but the entire country tuned in to see how government would respond to this national disaster. There was a public outcry from across the nation and people felt compelled to participate in the recovery efforts. “Following Katrina there was a rally of citizen activism. People got involved in levees, planning, and education issues that the city had never received community-wide participation on before and the Council wanted to support this increased involvement,” continues LeBlanc. While it was easier for those who returned to New Orleans after the hurricane to participate in local government, it was those who had not come back who struggled to learn of the city’s planning and reorganizing initiatives. New Orleans needed a communication medium that reached a broader audience and did not limit the sharing of public information to those living in Orleans Parish.
When creating an online digital government, the tools we select to achieve success are just as important a decision as choosing to start the initiative. In the case of Commerce City, CO, fi nding the right tools ended up being a fi ve year process of trial and error. The city fi nally realized the success they sought with Granicus’ Legislative Management suite.
PGCB strived to present itself as an open, reliable, public agency and offered meeting agendas and transcripts online. “We posted a great deal of content to our website yet we continued to receive email and phone requests for information,” Harbach said. With public information requests inundating the agency, PGCB realized that they still needed to take it one step further. “One area that was still untapped in allowing the public to see more of how we conducted our business was through our meetings,” says Harbach.
When the small town of Blacksburg, VA, needed a way to scale up their civic engagement to figure out a better strategy for downtown parking issues, they turned to the SpeakUpSM survey tool. With it, they collected over a thousand responses. These responses are now helping the city shape new solutions to create a more accessible central business district.
The Superior Court needed a more flexible platform to provide self-help training; weekly workshops did not fulfill the public demand. Jenson thought that “playing recordings over the Internet would allow us to provide services to people in their homes so they would no longer be constricted by their schedules.” Recording workshops and broadcasting them online seemed the most cost-effective and efficient alternative.
Citizens can quickly submit ideas to help the City improve services or public policy. For instance, one resident had the idea to install a bike share hub. Because Austin has a very active biking community, this idea quickly became one of the highest rated in the forum. Since then, the Public Works Department is in the midst of building a plan to implement a bike share program. “The ideas we generate are catalysts for action,” said Schooler. “We now have a tool to help us learn about the topics that matter most to our citizens. We also have a way to quickly prioritize ideas and put productive plans into action. All of this enables us to actually show our residents that we’re responsive,” Schooler added.
Community Engagement Consultant, City of Austin, TX
Los Angeles’ Information Technology Agency (ITA) built an in-house live meeting and voting system, Discussion Organizer and Voting System (DOVS), to streamline their meeting procedures. Both the clerk and council members operated in this system; the clerk to keep the official record and council members to cast electronic votes and make requests to speak. “We had resistance from members of our staff who did not want to change their in-meeting process, so we needed to make sure that any integration we built was as seamless as possible and did not affect workflows,” says Rodriguez.
Prior to using iLegislate, their legislative workflow was time and paper intensive, requiring hours spent printing and copying, ending with each of the twenty packets being hand delivered to the homes of its elected officials and staff. Determined to digitize agenda packet distribution through iPads, they began investigating several tools, such as Good Reader, iBooks, and iAnnotate, in coordination with email and Dropbox. However, Azusa found managing multiple applications to be clunky, requiring too much training. An all-in-one solution was needed. As a Granicus client, iLegislate was a free solution to the city, and so Azusa found their very first savings: a no-cost solution. After attending a Granicus Webinar, Azusa implemented iLegislate, easily streamlining agenda packet delivery via iPad.
The embed feature allowed Murfreesboro to test which pages on their website were more popular for videos. The Cable department discovered that they could strategically place videos on pages that applied to a visitor’s interest, like the police recruitment video embedded on the police department’s page. “Embedding videos on various pages on our website has allowed us to reach more people and increase our website traffic,” says Bozeman. “We’ve also realized how important the image of a video is. People don’t always know to click on a link but they know to click on an image of a play button overlaying a video,”
Walnut Creek wanted to upgrade its public meeting workflow and reduce the amount of time it took to create and publish meeting minutes. Patrice Olds, City Clerk, used to create long summary minutes using Microsoft Word. Olds would type her notes into Word during the meeting and fine-tune them after, adding in anything she may have missed and making corrections. Walnut Creek recorded the audio of meetings, giving Olds the ability to confirm her notes against the spoken word and confirm accuracy. However, Olds found that locating a specific item on the audio file actually added a significant amount of time to her minutes process. “My goal was to have the minutes ready to be approved for the next council meeting, but we didn’t always make it. Sometimes it would be a month between approvals and publication,” recalls Olds.
Prior to Granicus, King County relied on outdated technology such as word processing documents and index cards to manage and track legislation. As a result, researching and reporting on county ordinances required a lot of time and effort from staff, council members, and the public. Also, public access to this information never seemed to be timely or convenient enough. Here’s an overview of their top obstacles:
PEG channels. “We were cable broadcasting live but we did not have the option to provide on-demand access to programs. We wanted something that would allow us to better retain programming,” continues Herman Lau, of Olelo Community Media IT Department. Olelo struggled to keep up with, organize, and locate content. With countless hours of video footage, they needed a place to maintain archives and make them publically available, without adding the costly expense of increasing their internal bandwidth. Lam and the Olelo staff decided to look for a solution that would allow them to consolidate six access channels into one location, eliminating the need to purchase additional storage and distribution space.
After gaining confidence in their new legislative solution, Parkland identified the need to enhance and increase community collaboration. Granicus’ Citizen Participation tool SpeakUp is being implemented to further foster transparency in the decision making process and improve idea generation. Although SpeakUp is a relatively new addition to Parkland’s platform, Doug is confident that adding this tool to Parkland’s network of Granicus solutions will have far reaching benefits to the county as a whole.
Every year, the AAQTF meets 3-4 times to address policies facing the agricultural community. Under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), these meetings must be cost-efficient and open to the public. When the AAQTF realized it was spending large amounts of staff time and money on their recordkeeping and public information processes, they quickly prioritized an initiative to mitigate this with comprehensive Meeting Services provided by Granicus. Since then, the AAQTF has been able to streamline their meetings and meet FACA requirements with greater speed, openness, and cost-efficiency.
Assistant to the City Manager. Getting feedback and ideas from constituents is important, but consolidating them became increasingly more difficult. When in-bound inquiries and comments were addressed to the Clerk, she could organize the material and present to the Council prior to a meeting. But the public typically contacted Council members directly who received emails on varying topics; gathering that information, organizing, and distributing it became even more of a challenge. In response, Arcata needed to find “a system that took into account Council’s desire for organized, condensed, public input on agenda items while creating an electronic avenue for citizens to participate in the public process” Musick says. It became important to find a way to decrease the time she spent gathering this information and simplify the process of delivering public comments to Council.
According to McHenry, these process enhancements are enabling the city to save roughly $1,000 per month. He also expects these cost savings to increase after they connect their video solution to Granicus’ Legislative Management Suite, which will provide them with a completely automated and paperless agenda management workflow for their council meetings.
Previously, meeting agendas were created by scanning multiple documents into a PDF document package. With the Granicus Transparency Suite, that PDF now offers far more depth and ease of access to the public without adding work to the clerk’s process. The agenda is digitally imported into Granicus, which automatically parses it and creates a fully indexed agenda that is cross-linked with the meeting video. This allows viewers to easily search and review agenda items, and jump directly to the discussion of a particular item in the meeting video. North Saanich is now empowering individuals with Granicus to find what they want on their own, creating an immeasurably more efficient government.
With this project came the need to modernize the streaming video operation. Although the Tennessee General Assembly had been streaming floor sessions and committee meetings for over two years, the video content was neither presented nor organized well on the website. Also, the basic process for encoding and publishing streaming content to the Web was manual and very time-consuming. The Tennessee General Assembly has over 60 House, Senate, and Joint committees as well as floor sessions, which translates into streaming 150 public hearings per month. They had one full-time position dedicated to encoding, compressing, and posting these hearings to the Web. “Because of the volume of events we were recording, Web staff couldn’t keep up with the media posting schedule,” says Kriegish. It sometimes took between 24-48 hours to keep streaming content up-to-date. On top of that, staff frequently had to re-encode data. This was a lengthy process because the raw video had to be re-digitized in real-time, meaning it took the entire length of the meeting to re-encode before publishing to the Web.
Director of Legislative Services, Tennessee General Assembly
To combat a challenging economy, Granicus created its Open Platform to provide government agencies with a basic streaming media functionality at a lower cost than an all-encompassing package. “We got a call from our sales representative last year who told us that Granicus had created some low-cost options to help customers with budgetary constraints,” recalls Shea.
Granicus’ live meeting tools allowed the City Recorder to index and record actions during the meeting including motions, notes, and votes. By time-stamping actions, Jimenez produced a document, cross-linked with the audio recording of the meeting, directing the viewer to a full transcript of what was said. Jimenez’ replaced her detailed, verbatim minutes with an action minutes format since an audio digital audio transcription was available. Action minutes allowed Jimenez to record the actions taken in the meeting rather than a complete, detailed transcript of each speaker’s comments.
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