Palermo Galindo is community liaison for the city of Fort Wayne.
I'm “seasoned” enough to remember the days when reading the newspaper was all you needed to do in order to learn about local government services and programs. It used to be much simpler to gather information about my neighborhood, as well. I would attend a monthly meeting and get the details about road construction, dues and the summer picnic.
These days, however, there are numerous ways to gather information: Facebook, Twitter, email, texts, YouTube, and of course there is still snail mail and traditional media such as newspapers, radio and TV. While these newer ways of communicating are convenient and quick, having so many sources for information often makes it difficult to know where to turn to stay updated on topics that matter to me.
These ever-expanding ways to communicate can make it difficult for city government to reach out to our residents effectively. Should we simply post information to Facebook or do we also need to send letters, texts and contact local media? Perhaps an even more difficult question is: How do we have meaningful conversations with residents, ones that allow us to examine hard issues and develop solutions as a team?
In years past, we had these in-depth conversations at neighborhood meetings, and city staff still attend many neighborhood gatherings and have positive interactions with residents. Fewer residents seem to be engaging with their neighborhood or homeowner associations, however, and the ones who do can't do all the work by themselves.
We can't turn the clock back 25 years and only communicate with letters and meetings, so how do we operate in today's modern online world and still have conversations that help people improve their quality of life, especially in their neighborhoods?
Finding answers to that question is the reason for a recently released Resident Engagement Survey.
I encourage city residents to go online and answer the nine short questions about how you'd like to communicate with government, as well as your neighborhood or homeowners association. You can find the survey at www.fwcommunitydevelopment.org/survey or by following the City of Fort Wayne on Facebook or Twitter.
In addition to the survey, city staff have been talking with some of our most dedicated neighborhood leaders, as well as emerging leaders who are part of Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana. We're gathering their suggestions for how to best have productive, two-way conversations with residents.
We've also been talking with professionals in other cities to see how they engage residents to address concerns such as vacant lots, crime, infrastructure needs and more. These conversations, survey results and research of best practices will help us find new ways to work in partnership with local residents to improve the quality of life in our community.
Once we have all our information, we'll develop a set of recommendations and set about working to strengthen meaningful communication with residents and neighborhood groups.