Burbank City Council has agreed to experiment with paperless agenda packets — with Councilman Dave Golonski as the guinea pig.
Originally suggested in September by Golonski, city officials returned with a number of suggestions and preliminary research on the effectiveness of going paperless.
Currently, each council member is hand-delivered a three-ring binder each week containing agendas, staff reports, environmental impact reports, building plans and other documents. The binders sometimes use multiple reams of paper and are several inches thick.
The City Clerk’s Office produces 17 hard copy packets each week for distribution to city employees and the public.
Golonski will begin the paperless experiment in January using an iPad.
The experiment should incur little cost for the city, but if the council decides to go paperless, the up-front cost could range from $800 to $7,200 plus the recurring cost of a monthly data plan, which would be expensed to the city’s General Fund.
City officials are scheduled to meet to discuss what pieces or components the city will need to invest in before implementing the paperless system.
“We want Golonski to have a chance to familiarize himself with the device first,” said Information Technology Director Jennifer Wyatt. “We can’t have it disrupt the meeting in any fashion.”
Concerns were raised by other council members about larger documents, readability concerns and possibly Brown Act violations from electronic devices with Internet access.
“I am willing to try it because it is an awful lot of paper and staff time wasted with these reports,” said Mayor Anja Reinke, who was worried about the screen size and flipping through pages in longer reports.
Golonski, however, said he has no worries about trying out the new method. Initially a skeptic about reading anything on an electronic device, he is a convert to the technology thanks to his Amazon Kindle.
“It may seem daunting, but I think it should be easy for anyone really,” he said.
In Glendale, Councilwoman Laura Friedman has pushed for paperless alternative in City Hall, as well. The city now makes an iPad-ready copy of the City Council agenda available for the public on its website.
“To be honest, I have terrible handwriting and I couldn’t read my notes on my packet,” Friedman said. “It’s much easier to read my notes and make documents larger.”
She has only had minor trouble during meetings when scrolling through larger documents.
Friedman’s iPad is on loan from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, for which she serves as a board representative.
According to Wyatt, Burbank’s City Council agendas are already viewable on any electronic devices, including smart phones and computers.
“This is a first step towards our overarching goal to implement sustainable projects and processes that get us to a paperless environment,” Wyatt said.
The city plans to experiment using the iPad, Kindle, laptops and so-called netbooks.
Burbank Green Alliance Director Jessica Aldridge said she appreciates the council’s willingness to try out paperless options since paper products make up the highest percentage of waste in Burbank’s landfill.
“What I appreciate most about it is not just saving paper, but that the council is taking on roles of environmental stewardship,” Aldridge said. “If you ask citizens to save paper, you need to do so as well.”