The Pismo Beach City Council voted to approve its outreach program, Pismo Voice, for a second time with four ayes and one absent (Marcia Guthrie). The program established two years ago strives to gather input and goals from the community for the 2020-2021 fiscal budget by “fostering and increasing community engagement, increasing transparency of the process, and enhancing public trust.”
“The city’s biannual goal setting process is one of the most significant public engagement outreaches the city has,” said Management Services Director Debra Garcia when addressing the council. “It provides the opportunity for important information to the city council on establishing the city goals which includes hearing ideas and priorities from our community.”
Garcia reported that the last outreach produced 200 responses and over 400 priorities and goals. Though considered a success, city staff walked away with two valuable lessons from the program’s first attempt; namely, the need for such outreach and that timing is everything.
“We recognized that the previous program did overlap some of the holidays,” said Garcia, “which was a competition for people’s time and focus.”
Garcia said that this time the program’s schedule was adjusted to avoid having to compete with the holidays. Three meetings are scheduled for the November before Thanksgiving, one advisory board meeting and two community workshops.
On Thursday, Nov. 1, all members from the city’s four advisory bodies, the Planning Commission, Parks, Recreation and Beautification Commission, Parking Advisory Committee, and Conference and Visitors Bureau Board, will be invited to a facilitated workshop to solicit their ideas about community priorities:.
Community workshops will also occur in Nov. with the first on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at the Pismo Beach Veterans’ Hall located at 780 Bello St., Pismo Beach from 6 to 8 p.m. and the Thursday, Nov. 15 workshop at the Shell Beach Veterans’ Hall located at 230 Leeward St., Pismo Beach from 6 to 8 p.m.
City staff will serve as facilitators for the workshops that are designed for the public to participate in small break-out groups that will discuss key questions, including: “What are the most important things for the city to focus on in the next two years?” Once completed, goals will be organized by “theme” and the participants will vote on the goals of the workshop by priority.
Keeping up with the changing times, the department recognized the need for using a wide variety of methods to inform the public.
“…increase communication about the goal setting process and the importance of community input,” said Garcia, “We can’t stress that enough. Community input is key to this process.”
Paper surveys will be included in utility bills. These surveys will also be present at public counters, handed out during community presentations, and present at community booths. Outreach booths are scheduled to be present at the Clam Festival and Pumpkins on the Pier event. There is also a new website (https://www.opentownhall.com/portals/279/forum_home?phase=open) available for the public to access information and provide their input as well as the City app, Pismo Pulse.
“Instead of a paper survey, said Garcia, “a community member can go directly to the website and have the same opportunity to provide their input on the goal setting process.”
The Fiscal Year 2019 City Council budget includes $18,000 for goal-setting activities, consultant services, and other related items. The pre-paid postage cost for mailed surveys is based on the number of returned responses. The estimated exspense for postage and other incidental supplies is $2,500.
By Mark A. Diaz