Let’s assume, as with Whitewater’s 12.4.12 Common Council meeting, the city adopts sensible guidelines for filling vacancies by appointment. The vacancy process adopted at the meeting was the work of Councilmember Binnie and City Attorney McDonell, and one can find the draft of their work online in the 12.4.12 council packet.
As with a school board discussion from months ago, determining how to communicate a change can be as important as making the change. (Some announcements don’t have to be published in the city’s paper of record – as the city attorney correctly noted – but getting the word out needn’t be a recurring question.)
Here are a few suggestions:
Promote City Announcements on the City Website. Whitewater does this now, of course, but occasionally I feel as though the City of Whitewater’s website seems like an afterthought to some in local government. Discussions quickly shift from ‘lets put it on the website’ to talk of other media that will carry an announcement.
That’s too bad, because the City of Whitewater has a sharp-looking website that officials should promote at every opportunity. There’s more than aesthetics at work in using the city website, of course: official announcements should include publication at the city’s own site.
The first thing any member of council or government should say about an announcement (after explaining the content generally) is, ‘check our website,’ or ‘did you see it on our website?’
Create an Email or Text Address List of Every Place that Will Publish an Announcement. When you’ve a list ready in advance, someone just has to send one message to that list.
Most organizations, municipalities, and public agencies send press releases this way. One need not ponder these issues anew at each occasion; it’s much easier to have a distribution list at hand.
A simple reminder, still useful, I’d guess: thousands of smart and informed residents of the city, using their own email accounts, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and text messages are communicating well beyond the limits of an insider’s preferred newspaper, etc. For more along these lines, see New Whitewater’s Inevitability.
(I’ll also venture confidently that by maintaining an independent approach a website inexorably gains and retains more readers than through an alternative course.)
Reaching as many residents, in as many ways as possible, can be accomplished in less time than a repeated discussion of how to reach them.