REDWOOD CITY, Calif., April 3, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- In the face of the covid-19 pandemic, local government leaders across the country are rising to the enormous challenge of coordinating emergency public health measures and ensuring timely public communications, all while trying to keep the government running uninterrupted.
Many are doing this in various states of administrative upheaval, as they work to quickly transition their workforce and technology to enable remote operations. Unforeseen challenges to maintain business continuity are emerging among many local governments, including how to communicate with residents, how to host council and other public meetings, and how to keep City Hall running.
Dozens of OpenGov customers are demonstrating leadership and resilience as they resourcefully adapt in response to this crisis—rapidly enabling public-facing communication sites and virtual council meetings with public input. Provided below are examples of how local governments nationwide are working to ensure quality public communications, maintain operations, and enable strategic decision-making amidst this growing crisis.
A Single Source of Truth for Accurate, Rapid Public Communications
Cities including Redding, CA are using OpenGov's public communications platform, OpenGov Stories, to keep community members up to date on covid-19 announcements and local response measures. Having already faced the Carr Wildfire in late 2018, the City was poised to respond in a crisis and understood one of their most urgent priorities was to coalesce public safety information into a single, accessible source of truth to ensure accurate real-time updates.
While others may not have had the same experience coming into the crisis, they are learning to quickly adapt their communications to meet the urgent need. After collaborating with OpenGov staff, the Town of Needham, Mass. used OpenGov Stories to consolidate several different web pages into a cohesive covid-19 response page within 72 hours, featuring daily announcements, real-time stats and public health data visualizations, such as the number of active cases and administered tests. Additionally, Needham's Health Department team can now update their covid-19 page in real time (without IT help), with some aspects embedded directly into the Town's social media feeds, enabling the rapid and widespread dissemination of information.
"In times of crisis, it's especially important for governments to be able to communicate clearly and quickly with the public," said Cyndi Roy Gonzalez, Public Information Officer for the Town of Needham. "The team at OpenGov made that job much easier for us by providing us with an engaging web platform to help us share information. Our new Covid-19 website is low-maintenance and easy to navigate. Feedback from the public has been positive."
Other agencies have also found success rapidly deploying public communication sites in response to covid-19, with Dallas County, for example, launching their response site featuring embedded, dynamic reports and public feedback collection in less than 72 hours. Dozens of other cities and counties are following suit, launching their own unique response sites featuring real-time updates, case statistics, and other safety information, such as those published by Waco, Texas, Pompano Beach, Fla, and Half Moon Bay, Calif.
Enabling Decision-Making Through Virtual Meetings and Public Input
Another important administrative hurdle for local government decision makers is the ability to have and stream virtual council meetings, and to be able to solicit public feedback during the process. Officials in the California cities of San Mateo and Daly City have both begun leveraging OpenGov's public meetings and feedback tool, Open Town Hall, to ensure they stay virtually connected with their communities during such a critical time.
"Daly City wanted to preserve the public input process during the pandemic, so we approached OpenGov to help take our City Council meetings and Commission meetings fully virtual," said Stephen Stolte, Assistant to the City Manager. "It has been a surprisingly seamless transition for our City. We are using the 'Open Town Hall' feature as a one-stop shop for our virtual meetings, where the public can watch a live stream of our online meeting, read the agenda and supporting documents, and comment on specific agenda items. We have received great feedback so far."
In addition to city council meetings, Open Town Hall is also allowing departments to continue doing business by enabling other virtual meetings such as plan commission meetings. "Having to move quickly on our feet, our Open Town Hall platform allowed our City Clerk's office to solicit public comment for our virtual council and planning commission meetings," said San Mateo City Clerk Patrice Olds. "This helped us keep the public involved and run business as usual in unprecedented time."
As local governments across the country respond to covid-19, they are being called to adapt and stretch their capacity beyond what they thought was possible. Spurred by the urgency of the time, cities and their govtech partners are also coming together in effective and creative new ways. In addition to offering OpenGov Stories and Open Town Hall for free to customers through the end of the year, OpenGov is actively working to serve other public agencies who need support enabling flexible, accessible cloud-based software to continue operations and keep our communities running.
OpenGov is the leader in providing our nation's state agencies and local governments with modern cloud software to help power more effective and accountable government. Built exclusively for the unique budgeting, financial, and community development needs of the public sector, OpenGov solutions help our more than 1,000 customers plan effectively, increase efficiency, and improve engagement through better collaboration and transparency.