The City of Gainesville’s communications entered the 21st century last week with a new online forum called engageGNV.
Tacked on to cityofgainesville.org, this forum will allow citizens to comment on selected topics the city posts for discussion and vote on options for city projects. These projects are given a time limit for discussion, and the results are compiled and sent to the City Commission.
EngageGNV is part two of Gainesville’s Gov. 2.0 Initiative, which seeks to improve access on the city’s data and communication. The city signed a 1-year, $9,000 contract with Peak Democracy, a public engagement company, to provide this forum service.
Launched May 21, engageGNV has one topic up for discussion, and more than 90 people have submitted their opinions to the website — the equivalent to nearly five hours of public discourse.
“We are happy to see people are using it to share their comments with the City Commission,” said Lila Stewart, the senior strategic planner for the City of Gainesville.
The current topic up for discussion is the renovation of Southeast Fourth Street from Depot Avenue to Southeast Williston Road, which is scheduled to take place over summer of 2015.
Citizens can voice their opinions, ranging from right-of-way width to how much the city should spend for the project, until June 18. The comments will then be shared by staff members at the June 19 City Commission meeting.
Gainesville Public Works stormwater engineer Andrew Roberts, who suggested the .7-mile project be a part of the engageGNV launch, said the forum will be a great way for him to collect input from citizens.
“It’s only been up for a week or so, and we’ve already got input,” said Roberts, who is heading the rebuilding project. “Internet forums are a little easier for people to attend.”
He said the forum gathers peoples’ names, addresses, genders and ages when they post their opinion, and the city uses that data to see which commissioner’s constituents are engaged in public debate.
All of the services engageGNV supplies will provide additional information with the City Commission, Stewart said. It is not intended to replace public comment at City Hall.
“We are really hoping to use this to reach out to Gainesville residents and give them the opportunity to provide feedback on important issues in the community,” she said.
[A version of this story ran on page 4 on 5/29/2014 under the headline "Online town hall provides new outlet for citizen comment"]