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When I first became a member of the Council for the City and County of Broomfield, I gained a lot of insight into our operations through the Agendas.  Having worked with Cities since the 80’s I thought I had a good understanding of things.  I was wrong.  Every time we had a meeting, I would get a 300-page document on Dropbox and I would spend the weekend trying to digest everything from backyard bees to engineering specifications for the wastewater plant.  While my colleagues and I worked hard to be knowledgeable on everything from Hydraulic Fracking to marijuana, the reality was that I was frequently voting without a clear understanding of all aspects of the facts.  With the sheer volume of activity in our community, the staff made a tremendous effort to provide complete information.  Most of the time, they would err on the side of too much detail which would make it more difficult to understand the essence of an issue and what was in the best interest of our constituents.  If I, as a Council member, struggled to manage the volume of information, you can imagine why our citizens don’t feel “engaged” with their communities.

Last year at ICMA, I was expressing my passion for civic engagement with staff from Riverside, CA, they told me they publish their Agendas at least 12 days in advance of a meeting.  I think this is a great step toward fostering better participation in their community.  I have spent a significant amount of time looking at Agendas and I can tell a lot about a community from their agendas.  While we are in a time where every community has contentious issues, the towns that get out in front of controversies and provide genuine opportunities for participation seem to be a lot less contentious.

My experience with Broomfield inspired me to work toward the development of a new generation of tools that help both Citizens and their representatives connect in a more meaningful way.  The best place to start is with Agenda.