Two months ago, I announced my intention not to seek re-election. After more than a dozen years of serving as your mayor, and over two decades of public service to the City of Gahanna, this will be a major life change for me and my family. As I reflect on my remaining 15 months in office, it's natural to think of what I yet wish to accomplish before my service is complete.
One of our biggest challenges in recent years has been the ability to effectively communicate with our citizens. When I first ran for office in Gahanna, back in 1991, it was relatively easy. The community had two local weekly newspapers, and most people read them. Writing a letter to the editor, or a column, or pitching a story to the local reporters generally got most of the important local stories in front of citizens.
Today, it is much more complicated. There is one local paper now, and readership is down. With social media, email, websites, blogging, texting - communication is instant, personal - and the audience is splintered. To try and reach large numbers of citizens, we must use a wide variety of communication channels to try and get information out. Despite our best efforts, we still find that communication with citizens is not at an optimum level. We are not alone - as I talk to other city's leaders, we realize we all face the same communications challenges.
Some of our peer cities have large public information staffs to help solve this challenge. We have one person, but our employee also assists the police department handle media requests, and that task takes a lot of time. Still, we have made great inroads utilizing the official City website, with more content than ever, Facebook pages, Twitter Feeds, electronic newsletters and the like. We still work with our local media, mostly the newspapers, but the space they can dedicate to local news is limited. So we began to brainstorm about ways we could get accurate and complete information out to folks. Funding is extremely tight for non-essential services, so additional staff or paid media are out as alternatives. We also want to have the space to say what we want to say, when we want to say it, without the space and message limitations of standard media.
We also wanted to find a medium that was not an unedited, unmonitored free-for-all without the benefit of fact checking, but official forums that citizens can feel confident in, are trustworthy and factual. That eliminates most social media, including Twitter and Facebook, in my opinion.
A few years ago, we launched a blog on the City website, but it has not been used much, and readership is very light. Recently, we decided to relaunch our blog in an effort to engage our citizens. So if you are reading this, congratulations -- you have found our blog. Please come back often. I intend to write on a wide variety of topics, frequently. I also will invite other administrative staffers to contribute, depending on the subject matter and expertise required.
Have a question or an issue you would like to be discussed here? We hope so! Please email these to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will select questions, research the answers, and post the discussion here. And if you have other suggestions of ways we can enhance our communication efforts, please let us know. I hope you find this to be a helpful and interesting resource for factual city information. Talk with you again soon.
Mayor Becky Stinchcomb
City of Gahanna