City and library officials rolled out another piece of a plan to bring policy debates to the public Wednesday: Activate Wichita, a virtual town hall on the Internet to gather citizen opinion.
The Activate Wichita website, www.activate-wichita.com, seeks public opinion on how the city should cope with the drought and on programming needs for the new downtown central library.
The website is one piece of a broader plan launched by Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and City Manager Robert Layton in an effort to bring City Hall closer to the public. The portal will combine with city town hall meetings to offer citizens several chances to offer their views on key issues.
Layton is also working on a plan to craft an office of community engagement at City Hall, potentially merging the city’s communications, neighborhood city halls and customer service functions.
Activate Wichita was launched by the Wichita Public Library through grants from the Wichita Community Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
“As mayor, it’s always important for me to know what Wichitans are thinking,” Brewer said.
The online platform, teamed with the city’s town hall meetings — such as those scheduled next week on the drought — should give citizens a chance to “be involved in our discussions, whether it’s 4 or 5 in the morning, or 10 at night,” Brewer said.
Cynthia Berner-Harris, the city’s director of libraries, called the online platform the “future of community involvement in the greater Wichita metropolitan area … the way information is crowd-sourced.”
“Times are changing,” Berner-Harris said. “The way we conduct business is changing. The way we digest information is changing. So why shouldn’t the way we interact with our institutions change as well?”
The site measures and tracks participation, identifying the most interested citizens and the topics they find most compelling. Elected officials and city administrators will be on line, available for feedback and project updates.