As described by the City, it is ‘an on-line forum for civic engagement . . . powered by Peak Democracy, a non-partisan company whose mission is to broaden civic engagement and build public trust in government.’
That goal is admirable as are the selling points that Peak identifies on its website, namely that many in the community are too busy or too intimidated to address issues at public meetings and therefore have the convenience of providing input electronically.
While the first two statements have validity, there are already processes in place for the public to provide input via mail or electronic means on issues coming before both the Planning Commission and the City Council. http://nataliaportman.blogspot.com/
On the other hand, the advantages of Open City Hall include:
• A discussion format missing from the current input process that may encourage more ideas and potentially better solutions.
• Opportunities for broader participation, offering a different, less insulated perspective on many issues, particularly significant for Sugar House, with its large commercial and business areas, many customers of which live outside the area, but whose input is, nonetheless, important.
The bigger, remaining issue is ensuring that those impacted by the issues are aware of them and of the various means to address them. Some have consistently and persuasively argued that it is the responsibility of each individual to do this on his/her own, but on that basis many in the community remain unaware and uninformed, especially in Sugar House (see related article on Solei Cove). Better outreach is critical, regardless of the various opportunities available for input, including Open City Hall, which, by the way, is an additional cost for taxpayers. (see Peak Democracy website for details)