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‘Engaging El Centro': Seeking citizens'

September 25, 2001

feedback, involvement

By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The city of El Centro last week approved in concept the launching of a program seeking to transform passive consumers of public services into involved citizens.

The three-year, citizen-involvement campaign is "Engaging El Centro."

Mayor Cheryl Walker said the intention is to get people, among other things, involved and excited about what the city is doing, reduce public apathy and give feedback to city officials. It will be a kind of demystifying of government, she said.

"Is what we're doing with their money appropriate?" Walker said. "Tell us those things we're doing right and tell us those things we're not doing right."


Walker said city officials want to know what people's priorities are in regard to the city.

The proposal calls for city officials to engage the public.

Walker said the way to do that is by giving the public access to city officials, through the use of surveys, the involvement on the city's boards and commissions and community forums such as those staged in the city earlier this year.

The idea for "Engaging El Centro" came from City Manager Abdel Salem. He said during the last several years there has been great concern by city managers and city officials throughout the state that people are not sufficiently involved in local government.

"Rather than informing the public about what goes on, it was felt we should try to get the public involved with local government," he said. "This way, I believe, the public will have firsthand knowledge of what we do. The public's participation, or engagement, will give them more information on what goes on."

At last week's council meeting, Salem said the costs for the program are still unknown, but whatever they are, they will be presented to the council for approval.

One of the major players in the plan is the city's public information consultant, Bill Gay of Reliance Communications in El Centro.

Gay said his role will be to coordinate the numerous efforts among agencies in the plan.

"There's a lot of different elements and partnering with a lot of different organizations," he said.

The plan's 10 guiding principles, include being proactive, not reactive; being positive, not negative; addressing the future, not the past; being open, not closed; being inclusive, not exclusive; and being engaging, not simply informing.

The plan will target citizens, city employees, the news media, the city of Mexicali, the business community and the military.

The plan's goals are:

· support from the citizens for sufficient fiscal resources to meet growing needs of the city.

· a citizenry that understands how to effectively access city services and one that is willing to become involved in the process of government.

· elimination of misperceptions by the public of the quality and efficiency of city services and personnel.

· elimination of misperceptions by those who reside outside the Valley regarding the local quality of life.

· an improved quality of life for city residents.

· informed political, business and community leaders who view the city as ethical, efficient and effective.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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