Make Oakland Better Now!’s Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire was answered by 8 of the ten candidates. All of the completed questionnaires are available for viewing at our web site, here. Since some Oaklanders may want to compare candidate responses to each of the questions, we will be publishing the responses sorted by question here at Oaktalk over the coming days. You’ll find these posts for the first thirteen questions directly below this one.
In our last several posts, we asked candidates a series of questions about management, leadership, benchmarks and metrics and making sure their agendas were followed. Here, we change subjects, asking them their views about use of old and new media to inform and engage Oakland’s citizens.
Question No. 14: How can Oakland’s television station, its web site and other media be used to more effectively inform and engage Oaklanders concerning city government activities and issues?
If by television station you refer to the channel that broadcasts those scintillating City Council meetings (how’s that for reality TV?), I would say there is much more we can do. I am unaware how the station is otherwise used currently and if I’m saying that (as a professional with more than 25 years in TV broadcasting) then chances are good, most people don’t know about our station and it isn’t used for much else. This is most likely an underused resource. In the abstract I would say now that I would like to think creatively about how we might use this to broadcast messages that are part of a positive narrative of our city.
Our website may be the better resource for that purpose, however and I think it bears some upgrading. Much of it is currently difficult to navigate, and the look of the whole thing I find to be dull and dated. Web presence is the modern and cost-effective way to communicate with (and provide information for) the public.
Our citizens should be first priority. Utilizing the tv station for community programming and entertainment will infuse our community with hope and aspirations. The ancient notion of exclusivity for those who are only interested in city politics is very passé. Access for youth will invigorate our local television community.
To be more interactive with the people, and to show people the ugly side and not just the candy coated version that is usually put in front of us.
- I believe the TV station could be used in many ways. I would like to use it to go behind the scenes of city operations to give citizens a better understanding of what is really going on. This could include a police ride along or a time in some of the departments seeing how employees work with the public. Another idea I like pursue is to televise youth activities like basket ball games. Last but not least I think the Mayor should use this medium to regularly talk to the public and I intend to do so.
- As far as the city website goes, it needs a lot of improvement and that will be a priority of the IT department.
Oakland’s media assets are not doing enough to inform and engage citizens in the government. As Mayor I would completely revamp the City’s website to be easier to use, easier to search, and easier for City documents and data to be available to the public. I do not think the current website redesign is meeting the public’s needs or our open-government goals. Oakland should make its data as open as possible so that citizens can use it, like how Crimespotting.org creates an interactive map of crime data. As Mayor I would reinvigorate KTOP to provide more public benefit. Without spending City money, we can produce educational programming for citizens and businesses about the government and about the local economy. For example, other cities create videos explaining how merchants can take advantage of City assets or grow their businesses. I would be the first Mayor to be of the generation that has grown up with new media, and extending and expanding our City’s media presence would be a priority of mine.
Do you mean KTOP or Channel 2?
The answer to KTOP is to make it more available, and make it more relevant, mostly on line.
The answer to Channel 2 is to turn the current situation on its ear. The press should not be asking where the mayor is, the mayor should be on the ground asking where the press is.
Oakland’s strategic marketing plan must have as its first function: how to inform and engage Oaklanders consistently and in real time. I will begin there; seeking recommendations from those have the responsibility for promoting the city. In short, Oaklanders should be the first to see and hear what we project to the outside world.
KTOP is costly. While it has an important role in communication and community affairs, I’m skeptical it requires 11 full time employees to perform its present functions. (Another case of an unchecked bureaucracy; common excuse “oh, its not general fund money”, as though it were a dispensation! That attitude of elected and appointed officials makes me nuts!
A cursory look at the city’s website suggests swift and dramatic changes are in order. It must be the entry point for public access, transparency and open government.
The home page must be a primer for city government, allowing the visitor easy contact with any information about Oakland. A default link should allow the visitor to seek guidance or request specific information not readily or apparently available.
That will be an active link to the mayor’s office: we will be accountable for providing ready response.
As I note in #15 below, the Internet must be kept current, topical and interactive serving a variety of purposes. This is one area where replicating what other cities do can be both useful and cost-effective.
Traditional print and electronic media news is profit driven to a point where local coverage is a function of ratings appeal. The old adage “if it bleeds, it leads” has become a mantra. Which means substantive issues and public affairs aren’t covered or given short shrift.
Which gives all the more reason to seek and use technology to engage and inform Oakland residents.
There is, however, no substitute for a mayor who is out and among the people of Oakland, to see, hear and respond personally to the needs and expectations of our constituents.
I have used the station to conduct Call-In Budget Hearings in the past and would like to do that more often as Mayor. I have also used it to conduct hearings and my annual report on Domestic Violence. I expect to continue my weekly e-newsletter and plan to use more online surveys.