Gadfly turned to stone (33) (5)

(33rd in a series of posts on parking)

(5th in a series on the communication survey)

Reminder: Public Safety Committee meeting Wednesday Oct 10 6:30 Town Hall to discuss the BPA parking fines proposal. The Mayor has already approved the BPA request to raise meter rates from $1/hr to $1.50/hr. See post #28 in this series for the BPA proposal on fines.

We know the Communication survey meeting on Oct 24 has been canceled, but this thread on communication refuses to die.

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In the October 8 post Public Response to Parking Increases? (29) (1) (why are you so number-anal, Gadfly? You oughtta see somebody about that), Gadfly said he was surprised at the lack of response and hatched a handful of possible reasons why:

  • Maybe the 50% rise in meter rates met with acceptance with the public and business stakeholders.
  • Maybe the response won’t come till the parking proposal package is completed when Council takes action on the fines.
  • Maybe it’s a little too early — a week — for the Morning Call to be publishing a spread of Letters to the Editor, which is the place where Gadfly usually expects to see a register of public response.
  • Maybe the reaction won’t come till the moment of implementation January 1.
  • Maybe “the people” really don’t know about it yet.

And Gadfly rambled off into some meditations about the last bullet.

Then Dana reported that social media was active and that “comment by area residents on social media sites was unfavorable overall.”

So Gadfly girded his loins and plunged into Facebook. Where he was immediately turned to stone like Polydectes looking on the face of Medusa (O, Gadfly, you are so wonky. People need a Bullfinch’s Mythology at hand just to make sense of your damn little blogblurt).

See if you too don’t feel just a little masonry-faced:

“Why does it matter? [About going to an open meeting to discuss the parking rates.] City Council will do whatever they want. Public input wanted but public input not valued. That leads to frustration which I don’t have time for. Example: meter rate increase. Foregone conclusion. Why waste people’s time?”

Mortar-throated, it’s hard for me to talk. My knuckles won’t bend; it’s hard for me to write.

We should think about that quote every morning. Put a stickie on your bathroom mirror. On your shoe top. On your Keurig. On your steering-wheel.

“Maybe” there hasn’t been the response in mainstream channels that Gadfly expected because people feel shut out.

We should think about those words before every meeting.

That guy is Gadfly’s audience.

the City’s website should be the mainframe for disseminating information to the public (4)

(4th in a series of posts on the communication survey)

Dana Grubb is a lifelong resident of the City of Bethlehem who worked 27 years for the City of Bethlehem in the department of community and economic development, as sealer of weights and measures, housing rehabilitation finance specialist, grants administrator, acting director of community and economic development and deputy director of community development.

In my opinion, the City’s website should be the mainframe for disseminating information to the public, with social media as a supplement.

I have opted in for all alerts, and yet the only topics that seem to be covered, my compliments to both of these areas, are streets and recycling.

There are no alerts for meetings such as HCC, HARB, ZHB, Planning Commission, Health Board — no alerts for initiatives such as flu shots, availability of CDBG applications, recreation programs, etc. (with links to applicable agendas and minutes).

I would suggest that each department have an information officer who would insure that public information is sent out to all residents and businesses who opt into the website, so that these timely alerts provide city government’s news and opportunities.

There should be no political news, just the service-related info that citizens deserve to have in a timely fashion.

Dana

Rambling with the Gadfly (31) (2)

(31st in a series of posts on parking)

(2nd in a series on the communication survey)

So, the “comment by area residents [on the parking meter increase] on social media sites was unfavorable overall.”

Let me ramble a bit meditating about that report from Dana in context of the upcoming City communication survey. And how the Gadfly is going to answer.

Social media. Facebook. Twitter. Blogs. Instagram. Snapchat. Etcetera.

Gadfly is not a Luddite. Gadfly has used the new technology profitably professionally for pedagogical purposes. For instance, he gave you a link several posts back to his cluster of “History on Trial” web sites.

But he isn’t one to follow the latest fads and hasn’t seen the need for much of social media for either personal or professional use. His phone is plain and simple. Quaker-like.

Gadfly has 7 grandchildren in college spread all over the country who had never voted before the past primaries. He found Twitter useful this year in providing information, providing things to read and watch, providing things to think about, and urging them to vote in the primaries and now in the upcoming mid-terms. A good use of that technology.

The Mayor has a Twitter account, and Gadfly follows him. Do you? I wouldn’t say it’s a very active account. Should it be more active? (Ha! maybe not Trumpstyle active!)  Gadfly doesn’t believe the City has a separate account – should it?

After several months of stalking City government, Gadfly felt the need for people to talk more, interact more – and started this blog. “Blog” — a word to choke any person with a moderate literary sensibility. But the name can’t be stuffed back into the bottle now. And it is a good technology for this purpose.

Facebook. Has never interested me. And Gadfly imagines Facebook is what Dana was patrolling. Facebook is actually a bit scary to me.  Gadfly heard reliably reported that many people, especially young, now get their news from Facebook. Gadfly asked those grandchildren. Yes. True. That’s scary. Without even considering that the Russians were manipulating the news, there is no “center” for authenticity or ethics on Facebook.

Some people assume this blog is like Facebook. What scares me about comments on Facebook about parking, for instance, is the probable lack of context. Maybe this is an unfair assumption. But Gadfly  doesn’t see there room or space for extended discussion or argument or informed opinion. What Gadfly will try to do here is frame an issue from all sides, making evaluation, analysis, opinion legitimately grounded in facts, evidence as much as possible.

I hope the unfavorable comment on social media about the parking increase is not just thoughtlessly aimed at a money-grab by greedy bureaucrats but thoughtfully aimed at the announced uses necessitating that extra money. That’s where discussion needs to be.

Gadfly doesn’t think the City has a Facebook page. Is he right? If not, should it?

Gadfly likes the idea of a full, robust City web site. https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/ is a “virtual” City Hall. For me it’s like physically going to Church Street. Gadfly likes the idea of this web site being the solid source of all that residents need to know. And that’s why he pointed out the inconsistency of announcements there about something as important as parking rate increases.

Gadfly literally has his Monday calendar marked to check the City Hall web site announcements (though he inevitably looks there many more times than that in the courses of his gadflying) and Breena Holland’s Google calendar of local events for the week. Works for me. Gadfly likes the idea of the City Hall announcement page as the official channel for news.

And – and this is easy for me to say who is so shy he adopts an insect disguise to verbally hide behind – Gadfly would feel better if the Mayor were visible making announcements about what seems to me a largish issue like raising these parking rates. The Mayor sent a brief memo to BPA, is quoted a couple times in a Morning Call story, and (‘cause he was under the weather) had the decision straightforwardly announced without explanation at City Council. Gadfly thinks the decision could use some beefier legs under it. And maybe convert some of those Facebookers. At least give them more to think about.

Don’t leave out face-to-face communication.

So, quite a zig-zag ramble here. Any reactions to communication issues or your use of technology in anticipation of the survey coming? Or how communication happened in the parking rate process? Is there anything we can learn?

Public Response to Parking Increases? (29) (1)

(29th in a series of posts on parking)

(1st in a series on the communication survey)

Reminder: Public Safety Committee meeting Wednesday Oct 10 6:30 Town Hall to discuss the BPA parking fines proposal. The Mayor has already approved the BPA request to raise meter rates from $1/hr to $1.50/hr. See post #28 in this series for the BPA proposal on fines.

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So Gadfly wonders what you’ve heard from the “public” in response to the increase in parking rates. And Gadfly is still wondering about a response from the business community — anybody hear anything from that sector? It’s been quiet where Gadfly lives and plays.

  • Maybe the 50% rise in meter rates met with acceptance with the public and business stakeholders.
  • Maybe the response won’t come till the parking proposal package is completed when Council takes action on the fines.
  • Maybe it’s a little too early — a week — for the Morning Call to be publishing a spread of Letters to the Editor, which is the place where Gadfly usually expects to see a register of public response.
  • Maybe the reaction won’t come till the moment of implementation January 1.
  • Maybe “the people” really don’t know about it yet.

Now this last “maybe” gives Gadfly pause.

How does the public find out about such decisions that affect them? Gadfly is an old timer, still loves his morning newspapers. But, let’s face it, circulation in the Morning Call is way down from the time when Gadfly started to read it, and, adding in the Bethlehem Press, our town is not saturated with newspaper coverage. Gadfly is used to depending on his newspaper for this kind of affecting local news. But, for instance, only 2 of the 15 houses in my block receive the Morning Call, when every house got it when my Gadflykiddies delivered the papers.

So, how does the public find out about such decisions that affect them? And the deliberations that precede those decisions?

I don’t know details, but I am anxious for the Oct 24, 4PM, Town Hall meeting that we learned about in the Fall City newsletter that just came to our mailboxes, a meeting about “undertaking a comprehensive communications survey that will look to measure how residents are currently receiving information.”

How should residents get news from the city? How should the City communicate important news to the residents?  Good questions that Gadfly gathers the surveyors  hope to illuminate by their survey.

For instance, the City web site did not, as far as Gadfly can determine, announce the Sept 20 public meeting on meter rates, though it has announced this Wednesday’s meeting. The Mayor mentioned a press release at the Sept 20 meeting, but I guess that just goes to the press, and then residents are dependent on their mediation.

The Mayor’s approval letter to BPA on the rate increase was dated Oct. 1. There was a Morning Call news story Oct. 2. And probably by other news outlets as well. Is that the best way these days of media diversity yet fragmentation to get the word out?

Should the increase have been announced on the City web site? Odd to me, it wasn’t. So, neither the public meeting about the increase of rates nor the decision about the increase of rates itself was announced on the City web site. The Gadfly thinks of the City web site as the official central location for this kind of news. That’s where Gadfly would expect to get such news.

“Maybe ‘the people’ really don’t know about it yet” kind of haunts me.  Gadflies worry about such things.

As always, Gadfly expects a whack upside the head for faulty facts or thinking here.

But it seems to Gadfly that there are some things to figure out in the communication process between City Hall and residents. And Gadfly is glad about and looks forward to the communications survey launch October 24.