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Website of the Week: Granicus Powers Sacramento

 Sacramento has taken the lead in access to meetings and citizen involvement

Sacramento has taken the lead in access to meetings and citizen involvement providing a wealth of public resources in an easy-to-navigate format. If you’re looking for a great example of how a major city brings its government closer to its residents, check out the website of California’s capitol city, Sacramento.

Using software from Granicus, Sacramento has taken the lead in access to meetings and citizen involvement providing a wealth of public resources in an easy-to-navigate format, highlighted by some great-quality video using Microsoft Silverlight.

Citizens can check out archived meetings, provide feedback and link from the video to relevant government documents. The result: More participation in the policy process, even among people who can’t always make it to council and committee meetings right when they take place.

And with Granicus’ ever-growing portfolio of services, cities can start small—for as little as $300 a month—and add features as appropriate. It’s in place in some 700 government entities.

In Sacramento, the the City Clerk’s office recently retooled its pages to make them easier to navigate.

“A significant part of this success is that Granicus worked with us to integrate our Granicus facing pages to mirror the look and feel of the clerk’s pages, Wendy Klock-Johnson, citywide records manager, told Government Video. “This allows our Granicus users to get to the video content they are looking for quickly in a familiar environment.”

One recent addition: links to the city’s social media pages.

“As with any website, ours is living and breathing, changing to meet the needs of customers as quickly as possible,” Klock-Johnson said in an e-mail. “I think that because we have set aside pages for each of our officials to post content as they see fit, it allows them to connect with their constituency and provide them information that is important to them.

“Specifically the Mayor’s web pages are more interactive than ever, giving the public easy ways to conduct business with the Mayor’s staff. For example, a member of the public wanting a tour of City Hall or ceremonial documents can complete the Web applications, which are clear and easy to follow. The implementation of Granicus’ eComment has given the City another option to offer to the public as a means to communicate with their elected officials.

“We understand that we are dealing with a very different constituency than even 10 years ago. Our customers want to communicate with us, when they want to and how they want to. We still welcome a handwritten letter, and are happy to take phone calls, but we also want to make ourselves as accessible to as many customers as possible. To do that we have to be available on as many platforms as possible. This is why the city clerk is on Twitter. (”

Now Granicus has released Granicus Open Platform, a new software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform. The platform provides government agencies the tools to manage and broadcast rich-media online and engage citizens in the democratic process in new ways.

It’s also moving more of the work into the “cloud,” saving that finite municipal bandwidth.

“Cloud computing initiatives in government are increasing in popularity,” said Tom Spengler, Granicus CEO and co-founder. “Our open platform makes the cloud accessible and useful for any government. Agencies can share and manage information with greater openness and effectiveness across multiple systems and communication channels.”

With the new tools, internal users (like city employees) can have the files they need located internally (not off the cloud). Citizens, on the other hand, should be getting information more off the cloud, as opposed to the city network. Granicus provides the ability to store content both places, and intelligently routing documents through the appropriate server, saving bandwidth. With the system, cities can keep just a single live stream over its outside Web connection (just 300-350 Kbps), schedule big data transfers for low-use times of day, and more.

?Additionally, Granicus has released five new application suites which can be added to the platform at any time: The Government Transparency Suit, the Citizen Participation Suite, the ?Meeting Efficiency Suite, the Legislative Management Suite and the Training Management Suite.?

?Governments want citizen participation, but want it to be productive (as opposed to the handful of gadflies bringing their pet issues to every city council meeting across the country, trying the patience of the council members). So the City Participation suite takes citizen comment and puts it into clear workflow for timely action and response. A clerk’s office, with a couple of of clicks, can manage comments and give the council coherent summaries and reports on the comments on specific agenda items, for example.

Another recent, simple upgrade in Sacramento: the creation of open e-mail accounts for questions of the clerk, including or accords requests. Maybe most importantly, the city moved the addresses to a prominent area, the clerk’s Welcome Page, which has essentially extended it operating hours to 24/7, according to Klock-Johnson.

“People can leave messages at anytime that is convenient for them,” she wrote. “We do have an automated response that we will respond in 48 hours; however, most questions during business hours are answered in four hours or less. Inquiries received during the evening and on weekends are generally answered the next day. (Yes even on the weekends! This is because management staff can check these messages on their blackberries and when the question is simple we try to respond to get our customers the information they need as soon as possible!)”

So for its ongoing efforts and the use of Granicus technology to chasing the way local government works, the City of Sacramento’s website is the Government Video Website of the Week!!

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