Is direct access to City Hall coming?

A new policy designed to create a line of communication between Burlingame residents and City Hall could allow community members to author their own laws or get items onto the City Council agenda.

A city staff member, Councilmember Terry Nagel and former Councilmember Russ Cohen released the first draft of their Community Engagement Policy generated to provide a link between residents and City Hall.

Included is a method for community input to filter through to the council. Cohen likened the current system to a suggestion box. This new procedure, he said, would allow residents to track their proposals all the way to a council agenda or even an ordinance adoption.

Residents could use a methodsuch as Citizen Connect — the city’s online complaint system —to send the city general comments and suggestions, said Kate Crowder, assistant to the city manager, who worked on the policy.

Staff would then look over comments and send certain suggestions to the council every four months. The council could add the comments to its list of goals — which it uses to determine future agenda items — or act on the suggestion immediately, Crowder said.

“Burlingame is an engaged public and that’s a great thing. But without any procedures, it’s very difficult to take input and put that into actionable items,” Cohen said.

Cohen recalled a solicitation for feedback he sent to the community before hosting a town hall-like meeting. He received around 200 responses, but they were all unorganized — a problem the city often faces with such an involved community, he said.

“It’s a great model for any city really, because often people don’t know … how to approach City Hall [or] where their ideas go once they drop them off,” Cohen said.

The policy could be modified before the council has a chance to endorse it. If approved, the policy would continue as a “living document” that could be changed at any time, Cohen said. It would also be publicized to the community.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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