Articles

Gig Harbor, Wash., City Council Considers Transparency in Government

A dedicated platform would turn data into easy-to-use information that is customizable for the city, but cannot be manipulated by users.

by Andrea Haffly, The Peninsula Gateway (Gig Harbor, Wash.) / February 25, 2016
Gig Harbor, Washington Scott Smithson

(TNS) -- The city of Gig Harbor is making a focused effort on making sure it has an open and healthy dialogue when it comes to being open and transparent with residents.

At Monday night’s meeting, the Gig Harbor City Council was briefed by assistant city clerk Shawna Wise about research on new methods to communicate with residents and how to conduct an open form of city government.

City Administrator Ron Williams said the project was started at the request from the council during their retreat last month.

Wise took the lead on the project and has been researching new tools and methods of communication that are available.

“We want to lead the charge in informing our citizens, and we’ve been researching ways to do that,” Wise said.

The current outreach tools used by the city include the city’s website, social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter and The Peninsula Gateway newspaper.

Records are currently available to residents through the city’s cloud, including an online permit center that has projects back to 2006, an active project list, and information on meetings, agendas and past meeting minutes.

The city has recently increased its reach by enhancing the city website, launching a Mayor’s page and a Facebook page for the city, Wise said.

Other outreach platforms that Wise is researching include a mobile app and open data platform. The Open Data Platform is a separate website from the city and would keep information and data in a single area for residents.

Additionally, the Platform would turn data into easy-to-use information that is customizable for the city, but cannot be manipulated by users.

According to Wise, the Platform would positively engage the community while making city data easy to access, allow the city to provide information to residents and reduce records requests. Other cities already using this Platform include Auburn, Tacoma, DuPont, Bainbridge Island and Walla Walla.

Another tool Wise has been researching are mobile apps, which residents could download to their smartphones. The app could even allow residents to pay bills and submit service requests for things such as potholes or graffiti.

Both options have a one-time implementation cost for the city and then a yearly contract with the total cost depending on how extensive the city chooses to utilize these tools.

Council member Tim Payne stressed the importance of apps to connect with younger generations of Gig Harbor residents.

Mayor Jill Guernsey agreed and asked Wise to continue her research to bring a proposal to the council for consideration in the future.

“I think we’ll find there are uses for (these tools) we haven’t even dreamed of,” Guernsey said. “For us to be able to push out this information is great.”

Pierce Transit Trolley

The council unanimously voted to renew the agreement with Pierce Transit for trolley service for 2016.

This will be the fourth year the trolley has been in service to Gig Harbor residents and visitors.

Williams said the trolley route for this year will remain the same, but the city and Pierce Transit are considering altering the route in future years to better serve riders.

Both Guernsey and council member Paul Kadzik spoke positively about the trolley in Gig Harbor events

“It’s a real special thing for Gig Harbor and it makes the downtown experience much better than it is,” Kadzik said. “I think this is a wise agreement.”

Chamber of Commerce renewal

The council also voted to renew the city’s lease agreement with the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

According to Williams, the original lease was a five-year agreement that began in 2011 and just recently expired.

“(They are) one of our most valued partners in the community,” he stated.

The chamber provides a visitor’s center for the city as part of their office and has partnered with the city on several events.

The new lease is five years in length and is similar to the previous lease, including the rental amount.

©2016 The Peninsula Gateway (Gig Harbor, Wash.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.