Posted 4/5/17: Umbrella Group Monthly Meeting Notes from March 29, 2017

The Coalition meets monthly with the City of San Rafael along with two other umbrella groups (Federation of San Rafael Neighborhoods and Coalition of North San Rafael) to discuss activities, concerns and/or issues that are not readily addressed directly with the appropriate City agencies or where there is concern about the City’s approach. Items are placed on the agenda by the City and/or the three umbrella groups. This provides the Coalition with an opportunity to raise issues of particular interest to residents of our area. If you have any suggestions regarding potential topics for these meetings, we urge you to let us know via the Coalition Board contact form. Following is a summary of the most recent meeting:

Mayor Gary Philips and City Manager Jim Schutz were in attendance as well as community members.  The only item on the agenda was a discussion of ways to improve communication with residents. Councilwoman Kate Colin and Senior Management Analyst Rebecca Woodbury gave the presentation.

The City has had a four-year effort to improve communication resulting in four approaches:

  • Engage earlier,
  • Present information in Spanish as well as English,
  • Enhance technological tools, and
  • Close the feedback loop (let people know about decisions and any follow-up action or next steps and include a summary of public input in reports).

The group felt that Snapshot, the publication by City Manager Jim Shutz was very valuable especially since it has links to more in-depth information.  Nextdoor is very time consuming for Rebecca but has a large readership.  The City has a new website that includes a residents’ page.  It would be helpful to have feedback on this.  There are many other choices in social media but there are staffing issues with covering all of them.

The attendees broke into four small groups to generate ideas to improve communications.  Although no final decisions were made, many ideas were brought up, such as the value of in-depth discussions and the need to discuss wider issues. Some problems were pointed out, such as the need to know where digital feedback comes from, if the respondents live in San Rafael and whether each person responds only once when the City is using digitally gathered information as a basis for decision making.

All the residents attending the meeting felt that face-to-face communications such as happen in the Wednesday afternoon meetings are very valuable although it is not possible to find a time when it is possible for everyone to attend such meetings.  Most attendees write reports that make the content of the meetings available to a wide number of people through organization websites.