We asked residents for ideas to improve local meeting engagement – Here’s what they told us

One resident suggested that a special bus to pick up residents and take them to local government meetings would increase engagement for people with transportation barriers. Illustration John G./Shiner Comics

Cleveland Documenters asked nearly 80 Cleveland residents who live in 26 neighborhoods this question: If you were in charge, how would you help residents learn about when local government meetings were happening? Here were some of their ideas.

Resident engagement teams

Tramane Kedar Medley, 45, of Lee-Harvard, suggested that each City Council ward have a fund that would pay organizers to regularly canvass and educate residents on how they can engage with the local government.

Gary Murphy, 66, who lives in Detroit-Shoreway, had a similar idea. He suggested two-person teams who would work with local “powers” to get informed and bring information back to their communities.

Take it to the streets

David Horning, 33, from Ohio City, said he would buy a van with a loudspeaker and drive around the neighborhood broadcasting need-to-know news of the day.

Vada Williams, 50, of Buckeye-Shaker, also said that a person could use a bullhorn to call out to residents while walking up and down neighborhood streets to pass out flyers.

Suggestions, please?

Keesha Tolliver-Funches, 47, of Hough, envisioned a citywide “digital suggestion box.” To avoid leaving out folks who weren’t as connected, she said physical boxes could also be available at libraries, grocery stores, or post offices.

Postcards, flyers and door hangers

Several residents suggested that mailings or hand-delivered flyers would be a great way to let people know when regular meetings were happening and how residents could participate.

Annette Flenoy, 66, of Glenville, was one of the many who suggested flyers, “like officials do when running in elections.”

Social media, newsletters and more 

Many folks said social media, newsletters, and text reminders could help alert residents to meetings and important topics – but not so many that receiving them becomes overwhelming.

Abdusemih Tadese, 52, of Fairfax, suggested a local newsletter that contained a heads-up on key issues coming before City Council.

Other suggestions included: a unified calendar of city meetings that would allow people to see and save the dates, a more active social media presence that shared links to meetings for people to watch live or after the fact, and text message reminders of meetings.

Transportation 

Many public meetings went virtual during the pandemic; however, some are now back in person or offer a hybrid option.

Sonnia Ramsey, 67, from Buckeye-Woodhill, wondered whether transportation could be provided to seniors or others who wanted to attend.

Rhonda Hills, 50, of Lee-Harvard, had the same idea stating, “elderly get bussed at voting time, why not [to] the regular meetings?”

Engagement tracker

Jennifer Frymier, 43, of University Circle, said there’s not a way for residents to see that when they do speak up, what they need or what they ask for is provided. “There has to be more incentive,” she said. “If residents don’t really feel like they’re benefiting from engaging, they’re not going to do it.”

Fifteen Cleveland Documenters contributed interviews to this piece, including: Keith Seward, Emily Anderson, Kathryn Johnson, Marvetta Rutherford, Gennifer Harding-Gosnell, Mildred Seward, Janenell Smith and Dorothy Ajamu 

Find local government meetings at:  https://cleveland.documenters.org/meetings/

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