Northampton’s Best Practices Committee hosted its first public forum on May 13. Dozens of citizens and several city councilors attended. The goal was to brainstorm about ways to improve the city government’s decision-making process. Jason Heffner facilitated. This Google video shows about one hour of the two-hour-long meeting. Quiet periods and small-group sessions are omitted. Highlights from the small-group sessions are discussed in the last third of the video.
Below the video is the forum agenda followed by a selection of comments written by attendees. The comments are generally organized around various hot topics that involve municipal decision-making, such as the budget, the landfill, Sustainable Northampton, schools, and the prospective Hilton Garden Inn hotel.
Inviting written comments was a good way to let a large number of people express themselves on a wide array of subjects in a relatively short period of time. This and other facilitation techniques at the forum might be useful in other kinds of public meetings as well. The conversation continues at the Best Practices Google Group, open to all.
Parting Shot: “Good public meetings include home baked cookies”
Gazette: “Brainstorming best practices: Oversight panel to hold public forums” (5/13/08)
The panel seeks to hear from the public about how best to improve the city’s communication and decision-making practices. The goal: engaging the citizenry.
“The time has come to really shake things up,” said panel member Alex Ghiselin, of Riverside Drive. “The best- practices committee cannot do this by itself. It cannot be done without broad involvement by the public.”
…The best-practices panel is charged with creating and overseeing a public process for reviewing municipal decision-making. It is expected to draft recommendations for change by Dec. 4…