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City Hall slipping up in some citizen outreach

The city needs to engage its partners consistently and transparently

Over the past few years, the city of Beaverton has done a very good job of initially engaging residents and business leaders in a visioning process to determine the Beaverton community's future.

The process involved dozens of meetings and gathered valuable input from more than 4,500 people.

Along the way, consultants hired by the city helped a team of volunteers create a Beaverton Community Vision - essentially an action plan with 116 steps. And over the past few months, city staff members have re-engaged the community and worked to recruit a variety of stakeholders to be partners for each of the steps of the vision. Just three weeks ago, more than 60 community partners came together at the Beaverton City Library to initiate implementation of the Beaverton Community Vision Program.

The city was right to pause for a moment with its citizen and community partners to celebrate what has been accomplished so far - and to commit to achieve even more.

However, the city must engage these partners consistently and transparently.

By all appearances, that isn't happening sufficiently when it comes to the creation of a strategic economic development plan for the city. The city's own vision process calls for this strategy to occur with support from the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Westside Economic Alliance.

Yet, Beaverton-area business leaders were surprised two weeks ago to receive a 32-page economic development strategy - only one week after the actual kickoff of implementing the city plan. While the city's proposed overall plan may be intended to be an all-inclusive effort, the city's actual economic strategy backs away from that commitment by not seeking strategic economic input and buy-in.

To some business leaders, this is a disappointing reminder of past experiences with City Hall while participating on a citizens advisory committee that was asked to help shape a proposed downtown urban renewal plan. In that instance, the committee frequently was provided decisions that city staff had already made and plans that were already created with limited input from committee members.

Given these experiences, we sense there is a need to improve how city staff works with volunteers on matters such as economic strategies. Some of that improvement should occur with improved and transparent communication by city managers and by engaging citizens consistently at all times - not just in public meetings that are 'think tanks.'

That's not happening now.

In the past few weeks, calls to City Hall with questions about the city's economic development plan have not been returned. And, at least one city employee says that City Hall staff members were specifically instructed to not have meetings with community partners prior to completing the plan. Staff also said that they were unaware that the economic development plan was a part of Beaverton's Community Vision Action Plan.

This severe internal communication problem needs to be fixed. Too much is at stake, including public trust and the vitality of the local economy.

We encourage Mayor Dennis Doyle and city managers to do three things: slow down; communicate clearly, consistently and accountably; and follow through on pledges to utilize local community and business leaders to help create an economic development strategy that will serve the future.

Following such steps will lead to a better Beaverton in the future.