Whither communication, Washougal?

Washougal City Councilor Paul Greenlee is at wits’ end about how to improve communication with citizens. The city is moving forward with drafting a “Strategic Plan Roadmap” for the city, and a big chunk of the plan is dedicated to improving communication and engagement with residents.

Noble, I suppose.

But Greenlee is stumped. And he’s not alone. At a City Council meeting earlier in the week, he said the city’s communication efforts needed a boost. The city’s website, and the associated Twitter and Facebook accounts, along with mailed pamphlets, simply don’t get the job done. He also helpfully reminded folks that newspapers don’t reach as many people as they used to. (Thanks for the reminder!)

“Outreach and communication, I would like some ideas about that,” Greenlee said at a council meeting earlier in the week, noting that he’s on Facebook but not Twitter. “Short of knocking on doors, which I suppose I could do each year, half the people won’t be there and the other half won’t want to talk to you.”

So a couple of ideas: What about a town crier? No one would be able to escape the lusty cries of a man in a tricorne waving a large bell. Or maybe city-sanctioned bathroom graffiti that, at the very least, could detail what’s happening at the water department…

Just spitballing.

The issue of communication, or lack thereof, has really hit home since the city started readdressing annual increases to its water, stormwater and sewer rates. That process—which has been ongoing for literally years—elicited quite a reaction in late December, when some folks started circulating a petition throughout the city complaining about the rate increases.

A special informational meeting was called in December, at which residents packed into council chambers to lob complaints at Mayor Sean Guard. Many said they had no clue their rates were going to increase. That happened despite a number of news articles having been written about the process and the rate increases (here, for example). So maybe Greenlee isn’t too far off the mark about newspapers.

In any case, if you have a better suggestion for Washougal when it comes to communication, I’m sure they’d like to hear about it.

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