Burbank to debut online comment pilot program for city meetings

Burbank residents can now leave comments for city officials on issues slated to be discussed at upcoming meetings as part of a pilot program to increase community engagement, especially for those who may not be able to attend a meeting in person.

For six months starting in August, residents will be able to leave public comments online for the City Council, the Park, Recreation and Community Services Board and the Planning Board — three of the more than 20 different bodies that meet publicly on a regular basis.

Users can leave comments through the city's website once a meeting agenda is posted online, and all comments must relate to a topic included on the agenda, according to a city report.

Commenting will close 24 hours before the meeting to give elected officials and board members time to review the reports. Members of the public who wish to review other people's comments can request them through the city clerk's office or pick up a copy of the report during the meeting, said Burbank City Clerk Zizette Mullins.

The Planning Board offered a similar online service in 2010, Mullins said, but it fizzled out after two years.

Residents must provide their name, a valid email address and their postal zip code before commenting. Anonymous comments will not be accepted, something Councilman Gary Bric said was necessary.

"It's like coming down here, you put a face to a name, those comments I appreciate," Bric said. "When I read something on a blog, and I haven't got a clue who it's coming from, it means absolutely nothing to me."

The public can post up to 600 characters per agenda item, which will be distributed to the council or board, as well as the city attorney, city manager and city department staff.

The system serves as a tool to "provide greater public access, engagement, transparency and efficiency by allowing those who are unable to attend meetings to give their input through a computer, tablet or a smartphone," Mullins said.

The service is included in the city's $32,000 annual contract with Granicus, a meeting management company that provides live and archived audio and video recordings of city meetings.

At the end of the pilot period, city officials will evaluate whether to expand the program to other boards and committees.

"I think it will be very beneficial to us," Mullins said. "This is just providing an additional way or method for the public to be engaged… especially with a lot of working parents, people are so busy and may not have the time to come to a City Council meeting and sit for hours."

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World