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Reaching Out for Feedback and Input
Jeffrey Barnouw | Amphitheatre Drive


The City Council and Staff have launched two programs to find out what Del Mar citizens are thinking. In December an online Citizen Satisfaction Survey asked the public to assess the performance and relative importance of a wide variety of services the City provides. Then, to open the New Year (in fact in mid-January) an “online community engagement tool” called Engage Del Mar made its debut, an open-ended project to develop more and better lines of communication between citizens and with the City Council, committees and staff.

The online Satisfaction Survey was complemented by a hard-copy version. Thirty paper copies were among the 442 responses received from a pool of 2900 names gleaned from Voter Registration. Probolsky Research of Newport Beach, which ran the survey, found the number of responses gratifying, above what one could have expected judging from comparable surveys elsewhere in California.

The survey asked not only for judgments and comments on the performance of a wide variety of services the city provides but also a ranking of priorities among some of them. (I found ranking them by relative importance difficult.) The third question presented a very heterogeneous list of services and issues “the City is evaluating,”

“repairing streets, adding/improving sidewalks, encouraging a more vibrant Downtown business area, reducing the impact of business parking on adjacent neighborhoods, adding new recreational opportunities, generating revenue from visitors to provide services that off-set their impact, traffic enforcement, and crime prevention.”

Results are not yet in but will be presented at the City Council meeting February 2. One possible gain from taking the survey is that we were again made aware of how many things the City does for us.

Kristin Crane, Assistant to the City Manager, oversaw the survey and is joined by Andrew Potter, Director of Administrative Services, in monitoring the online activity of Engage Del Mar. This “tool” is provided by MindMixer, a software program currently used by 90 communities in California and 900 nationwide. In Del Mar it should serve a number of different purposes, not only on already defined projects but the shaping of concerns and issues. To begin with two sample questions have been posed about the different ways in which we enjoy the beach and about our favorite park, whether in Del Mar or not. I opt for the English Garden in Munich, which won’t shed much light on what we can do with the Shores lot.

I, of course, signed up for my Engage Del Mar Account immediately and was promptly acknowledged by the Mindmixer Team. “Welcome, Jeffrey, Thanks for verifying. Now you can start contributing to our community.” The social media aspect includes a competitive angle. The program says I will earn points every time I contribute to the site, points that “can be redeemed toward unique rewards,” ranging “from baseball caps to a key to the city.” “You can also see how you measure up against the other participants in your community by checking out the Top Contributors.”

I would already have 50 points just for creating my Account and would get 25 more for each of you I could persuade to join. But Kristin Crane assured me the City will not make use of this feature. Let’s hope this whole amusing but pointless section is removed from the site. The possibilities for generating civic dialogue and engagement, which was the Council’s main intent, should be enticement and reward enough.


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