A new initiative in 2012 was for our Mayor and City Council to conduct a series of three town hall meetings in our community. However, we did not plan to conduct your “typical” town hall meeting. We wanted to focus on three certain segments of our community- the seniors, the businesses, and the international community in Eden Prairie. Even though anyone was invited to attend any meeting at any time we took certain measures to focus the meetings on these groups.
Our strategy in doing so involved three main components:
1. Market the meetings to the proper audiences. For the senior meeting, we worked with our city Senior Center to market the town hall meeting at other city senior events. At our business town hall meeting, our own Eden Prairie Chamber of Commerce assisted with the promotion of the event through their membership.
2. Set the town hall meeting time and location to fit the needs of the audience. We conducted our senior town hall meeting at Summit Place, a senior housing campus, at 4:00 pm. Meeting late in the afternoon would not interfere with the 5:00 dinner hour. Also, we conducted our business town hall meeting at 7:30 am at a local bank to accommodate the needs of our business community.
3. Design a meeting that fits the audience. At our business meeting we purposely raised topics that would impact our local business community such as transportation, recent business survey results, and property taxes. At our international meeting, we provided a presentation on the changing diversity of our city over the past twenty years.
We felt these strategies helped to increase our turnout and participation. We averaged between 30-50 people per meeting while previous town hall meetings in Eden Prairie and those in neighboring communities have usually drawn around 15 people. We also received positive and constructive feedback at these meetings. We heard about issues related to: traffic enforcement, park programs, sidewalks, benches, walkability, light-rail transit, and new business growth and development.
I am very pleased with the outcome of these town hall meetings in 2012. We are also very excited to conduct more citizen engagement activities in 2013. We are planning to hold community forums on issues that affect our residents such as transportation, housing, and aging. We will also be looking at more enhanced on-line engagement through the use of web technology.
I am looking forward to it.