John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
My Efforts to Improve Communications with Residents

My Efforts to Improve Communications with Residents

One of my goals as a Newtown Township Supervisor is to improve communications with Township residents. That is the main purpose of this blog. It’s good to know that my efforts have not gone unnoticed. Yesterday, for example, a member of the Nextdoor community website - where I often post information of interest to Newtown area residents - sent me a personal note: “I think your (sic) a terrific Supervisor to keep us informed!” That person made my day.

More important than posting to my website is the work I have done in conjunction with the Township staff, Technology Committee volunteers, and contractors to improve communications and access to public information. Some of the small steps toward my goal include the following.

  1. I revised the mission statement of the Technology Committee to include “improve communications between the Township and its residents” (Resolution 2018-R-11, March 28, 2018).

  2. Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting agendas previously stated at the top: “Please Turn Off Cell Phones During Meeting”. I thought that would discourage residents from using their phones to record the meetings. Consequently, I requested that this phrase be replaced with “Please Silence Cell Phones During the Meeting.” My request was granted. This should apply to all agendas of public meetings. 

  3. Related to that, at the March 14, 2018, BOS Meeting, I noted – and the Township solicitor confirmed - that residents can video record ALL public meetings, including Zoning Hearing Board meetings. Audio recordings are also allowed.

  4. At the Mar 28, 2018, BOS meeting, I noted that there was an unnecessary delay in publishing minutes of meetings. The process involved approving minutes at the following meeting and then signing the approved minutes two weeks later at the next meeting – a total of more than four weeks after the original meeting. Now, if there are no changes, the approved minutes are signed and posted about two weeks after the meeting. If corrections need to be made, the Township administrative assistant posts a temporary copy of the minutes, which is then replaced with the corrected copy.

  5. Related to that, very early on in my tenure in January, 2018, I requested that the posted minutes be converted to searchable PDF format. This was quickly implemented and every PDF version of minutes going back two years have been converted. Using a PDF reader, you can now search the minutes after downloading. You can also copy and paste sections of the minutes, which I do all the time. See for example the summaries of minutes posted to this blog.
Newtown BOS Website Video Streaming Improvement: No More Pixelation!

Now I can put another small “feather in my cap.” Finally, the quality of the streaming video of BOS meetings on the Township website has been improved and is now on a par with online videos of other townships. This is something I have been pushing for since taking office in meetings with the video contractor and the Township Manager and at BOS meetings. The "before and after" screen grabs below clearly show the improvement.

Another issue is indexing the video to allow viewers to jump to different sections of the video by clicking items on the agenda while playing the video. Lower Makefield Township (LMT), which uses the same streaming video vendor as does Newtown, includes this useful feature. LMT’s streaming video page showing the index to the video. Viewers can click on an item in the agenda such as “Contract for New Manager” and jump immediately to that portion of the video (see screen grab below). Since Newtown’s video page lacks this feature, it is very difficult for residents to view the sections of BOS meetings that they are most interested in seeing.

Now that Lower Makefield has stolen our Manager (click on “Contract for New Manager” here), I want Newtown to be competitive, not only in having great management but having great communications capabilities. The above accomplishments and suggestions are small steps in that direction, but there is still much to be accomplished. Stay tuned!

Posted on 25 May 2018, 10:37 - Category: Communication

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