For folks who can’t make it out on a Tuesday afternoon to make their voices heard in city government, there will soon be an option to comment on the online version of the current Raleigh City Council agenda.
Starting Oct. 2, the e-comment software will enable residents to comment on specific agenda items up until two hours before the City Council meeting. Residents will be able to comment again after the meeting is over.
City Council meetings take place on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 1 p.m. The agendas are posted on the city's website on the Friday prior to the meeting.
Raleigh's Public Affairs Director Jayne Kirkpatrick said the two-hour cutoff ensures that Councilors are not receiving comments in the middle of meetings.
As technology advances, the city has to be cautious of violating state open meetings laws when testing new ways of communicating with elected officials.
“We have to be extremely vigilant to make sure what we're doing is increasing transparency and communication and it's not being used in any way in the reverse and create a situation that the public is now aware what's going on,” she said.
Kirkpatrick said that there will be a soft launch Tuesday to test out the software, and a full launch will take place for the next meeting Oct.16.
The program will only be available for City Council agendas, but Kirkpatrick said if there is enough positive feedback from residents, city staff may expand it to all meeting agendas.
The e-comment program was part of a government transparency suite the city purchased earlier this summer. The suite also provides podcasting and live streams of meetings on cell phones.
The city purchased the software for $6,800. Hosting and management will cost an additional $8,400 annually.
The city has also purchased a citizen participation suite, which can be seen as MyRaleigh ideas on the city's website.
Information Technology staff is exploring other options to streamline meeting management.