’Burg starts website to increase City Council transparency

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October 17, 2008

1:08 PM

The City of Williamsburg has launched a website to facilitate communication between City Council and its residents.

Williamsburg has employed Peak Democracy, a non-partisan company that provides online forum space for civic and community discussions, to let city residents provide feedback on issues, especially the City Council’s development of long-term goals. The program itself is still running as a pilot status.

Local residents can participate in discussing issues relevant to Williamsburg’s planning process. City planners can then use this information to consider resident preferences and concerns.

Assistant City Manager Jodi Miller helps to maintain the website for the city.

“The forum was used in conjunction with the city’s goals and initiative priorities,” Miller said. “It really allows citizens to weigh in on what should be included in Williamsburg’s planning process.”

Residents can post their views and opinions regarding specific topics that have been posted by city employees.

Currently, issues regarding city goals, housing units per acre and garbage collection are included on the Peak Democracy pilot site.

“We’re just trying to stimulate conversation between residents,” City Council member Paul Freiling ’83 said. “Each issue will have its own basis of reason.”

Participation in Peak Democracy has been slow since the website’s launch.

“It’s been a little light in the beginning,” Freiling said. “Hopefully people can get accustomed to it and

participate very soon.”
As of press time, the thread on city goals had garnered four comments and a thread on housing density had generated one. Several of those posts, however, mentioned that Peak Democracy is a useful communication tool.

“I commend the City of Williamsburg for initiating this approach to facilitate citizen input,” a poster with the username John Whitley wrote.

Freiling encouraged students to participate in the forum and provide input for the city’s planning.

“It’d be great for students to participate, just as we encourage them to visit the [City of Williamsburg] Facebook site,” Freiling said.

The Peak Democracy website can be accessed at www.williamsburgva.gov. The pilot program will be accessible until Oct. 31, after which it will be determined whether the website will be permanently purchased.

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