The city wants to control its own message by launching new communication platforms and public information strategies through the city secretary’s office.
Digital bi-weekly newsletters and increased social media presence, mostly through Facebook, is the staff’s plan to reach its information further into the community.
Deputy city secretary Kristin Edwards said in her presentation at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that the intention is to “tell our story in a more timely and complete manner” and to provide the public with “an accurate, 360-degree perspective of city initiatives, projects, decisions and programs.”
Press releases are posted on the city’s Facebook page and sent to local media outlets, but in this initiative the secretary’s office would do more.
Newsletters would cover new projects, technology, grant programs and ongoing city efforts and training opportunities. The city would invite subscribers to the digital newsletter to address events during the week of release, with a follow up the next week.
Edwards said the newsletter could include “expert-in-every-office” features, which would allow the staff directors and department heads to write columns based on their training, education and experience.
City manager Matt Benoit would also write a column in the newsletter titled “The Way I See It.”
“So you would be given kind of a center spread both with the facts of the situation and then with an administrative perspective just letting the citizens know what the ramifications for those programs are and how they can really help our entire community,” Edwards said.
The Houston-Galveston Area Council funded a case study to provide city officials with a framework on implementing new projects intended to build upon the city’s “quality of life.”
The study deals with familiar issues in the community – the imbalance in jobs and quality housing opportunities, Walker County’s non-taxable land between Sam Houston State University, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Huntsville Memorial Hospital and the national and state parks.
The study found that 58 percent of Huntsville residents are renters and 24 percent of the city’s workforce commutes from outside the county. The goal for the city is to keep more of the workforce living in Huntsville, create more housing opportunities for renters, while trying to reach the city’s economic potential.
City Council was presented Tuesday with a strategy to “protect and market Huntsville’s character” by ranking 10 quality of life case study projects in order of importance, starting with promoting K-12 schools.
J. Rebecca Leonard of Design Workshop, which partnered with Franklin Associates to conduct the research, said part of the city’s problem was prioritization in acting on key issues.
After promoting excellence in grade schools, the quality of life projects rank as follows: broaden the range of housing types and price diversity; reevaluate wet-dry county lines; create a marketing campaign; increase adult education and training opportunities; increase retail and restaurant opportunities; create a corridor connecting downtown Huntsville to Sam Houston State University; leverage the presence of TDCJ to expand economic development; develop a business park; revise and enforce development regulations.
Some of these projects are already underway. The Huntsville ISD school bond that would have provided upgrades to facilities was voted down on May 11, but district officials have said they would regroup and perhaps try again.
Citizens and business owners in Walker County Precinct 2 are circulating a petition to allow alcohol sales in Pct. 2. City Council also voted Tuesday to adopt a new provision to the city’s development code for larger developments that meet special criteria.