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City schedules roundtable on communication

Two Los Altos City Councilwomen want to know how the city can better engage residents – and vice versa.

Councilwomen Jeannie Bruins and Jan Pepper are slated to host a community roundtable in a bid to improve the city’s communication methods with the public. The roundtable – scheduled 6:45-9:15 p.m. Aug. 12 at the Los Altos Youth Center, 1 N. San Antonio Road – is open to all residents.

Reached by the Town Crier, Pepper noted that improving communications between the city and its residents was a central topic of her 2012 council campaign.

“To me, this is kind of the key – if you can improve the communication between the city and residents, then it will improve anything we’re working on,” said Pepper, who noted that the council listed the issue as a priority in both 2013 and 2014. “What I’m interested in is a dialogue where we can talk about things and understand where people are coming from.”

Participants at the event will be asked to share which of the city’s current communication methods they prefer, Pepper said. Representatives from the city of Palo Alto and a neighborhood association in Mountain View will discuss their approaches to public communication and the use of some technology-based communications tools.

“A part of this is engaging in two-way conversations and looking at ways people can effectively communicate without necessarily having to come to a city meeting,” Pepper said.

Finally, participants will be asked to discuss new ideas in small breakout sessions during the event, said Bruins, who called the event an exercise in “leveraging the collective intelligence” of the community. She pointed to the city’s current methods of informing residents about public and private projects that could potentially impact neighborhoods as scenarios for residents to discuss.

“There is going to be a dialogue going on amongst residents where they can share their ideas,” she said.

Bruins added that she believes residents and the city will mutually benefit in the long run from taking the time to improve lines of communication. Overall, Bruins said she hopes the event will lead to a more complete understanding of the ways residents provide input to the city – and receive information from it – so that “the city council can determine what action can be taken to solve it.”

“We get more depth, more breadth and more representation of residents’ voices,” Bruins said. “This is their community. How can they feel more engaged?”

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