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Kennedy's Update on City Center Not Useful

Here's hoping that we can get a really useful update on City Center.

In 2011, my fellow voters and I decided to spend 29 million dollars on the Alpharetta City Center project.  The details of this project, from the major to the mundane, are being overseen by Alpharetta City Council.

Last week on this blog I requested an update on this project. Councilman Kennedy responded to my request and told me that the updates are all archived on the City Council meeting minutes/videos website page on the city of Alpharetta website.

Since I did not want to watch 7 hours of video, I read the Council meeting minutes dating back 3 months, hoping I could find my update in the written word.

So, for your reading pleasure and stated almost verbatim: 

$$$ - September 10 – City Administrator Bob Regus introduced the City Center Design team who presented an update.

$$$ - September 17 – City Administrator Bob Regus provided an update and a timeline of events.

$$$ - October 1 – City Administrator Bob Regus provided an update.  The Director of EPW talked about the Haynes Bridge closure.

$$$ - October 8thCity Administrator Bob Regus introduced Michael Swartz who presented schematic design updates.

$$$ - November 5 – City Administrator Bob Regus provided an update.

$$$ - November 19 – City Administrator Bob Regus provided an update

$$$ - December 3 – The City of Alpharetta will need to spend an additional $1.4 million dollars because of a poor soils situation.  Council will devote part of their retreat to exploring how to balance the project budget.  Architects are beginning to present recommendations.

As you can see from the above, we can be assured that there is an updater making updates on the latest updates on City Center.   Oh, and also evidently Council needs to explore how to balance the project budget – I wasn’t expecting that one.

Would I have learned more details if I had watched all 7 videos? Exhausting!  And anyway, not all the information we need is in the videos.

I can't help but feel I’ve been denied a City Center update by Councilman Kennedy.

Here’s an idea.  How about providing us – the taxpayers and voters – with a meaningful update, i.e. what’s been nailed down, what’s in progress, pictures, summaries, where we are with the financials, and posting this on the woefully neglected city website page called “Downtown Development Plan”?  I say this because a) we cannot attend every City Council meeting; b) information technology really is our friend and as useful to the public as we make it; and c) it’s your fiduciary responsibility to convey to us, certainly upon request, the manner in which this project is being executed. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Paula M December 17, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Posting updates on the Downtown Development website is a great idea. A brief weekly update of the progress with pictures, summaries, and financials sounds easier to keep up with. It also gives transparency to city government. Keeps us all on the same page. This could start a trend and be the 'norm' for other city websites.
Paula M December 17, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Correction, Downtown Development web page.
Emil Walcek December 17, 2012 at 02:18 PM
First, if you had requested information by a direct telephone call or email to a specific leader on a project, I would find Kennedy's response lacking. However, a general response to a general question on a blog is a starting point. I share your concern that Alpharetta seems to be using video to replace meeting minute detail. If that is the intent, find some way to index the video footage so reviewers don't have to wade through non pertinent sections and eliminate the transcriber function altogether. Otherwise the Council is using technology to obfuscate, rather than enlighten citizens.
W. Beck December 17, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Between the first post you made on this and Kennedy's prompt response I think it is pretty clear what is going on. When there was major things to discuss, like the soil problems, the summary has plenty to say. Otherwise the update probably went along the lines of "yup, still working on design work.. waiting on this.. we'll talk next time." Maybe you could spend a few minutes looking at the video that they provide everyone. Large projects are like this. There will be tons of activity for a little bit, then a lot of quiet, behind the scene work. It looks like tonight they'll have a large update to provide too.
Mike Kennedy December 17, 2012 at 04:23 PM
The video footage is indexed.
No Name December 17, 2012 at 04:47 PM
The notes should still have more detail. The video should be an enhancement, not a replacement. If the video is the only thing that provides useful information, then maybe we don't need a secretary at the meetings. Maybe we can do away with someone's job to help fill that budget gap on project overruns. Oh, and when will the big trees be taken down? Between Christmas and New Years when no one is looking?
Michael Cross December 17, 2012 at 07:38 PM
If you go to the City's web page for meetings (http://www.alpharetta.ga.us/index.php?m=meetings) and click on the link, you'll see it's possible to click on the "play" button alongside any agenda item, upon which you are able to start immediately with the agenda item about which you would like more information. There is no need to view or listen to any portion of the meeting about which you have no interest.
W. Beck December 17, 2012 at 08:13 PM
They're meeting minutes -- they accomplish exactly what every other meeting minutes doccument looks like. If anything, it provides a very good guide to read and decide what is important to you. You can then use their video service to go back and watch. It is really simple. Once you open up the meeting those same notes appear in a box. You can then click "play" and go directly to the portion of the meeting where they discuss city center. I'm shocked at how easy and transparent it is. The original article acts like you'd have to sift through 7 hours of video, when in fact, it takes 45 seconds to get to video footage of the discussion. It also seems like if you contacted Mr. Kennedy directly with questions he would be more than happy to answer them. Or, you could appear in person to the city council meetings, where just by the few minutes I read, seems to be little if any public comment on city center.
Paula M December 17, 2012 at 10:06 PM
City administration has done a nice job of bringing transparency to residents on the website by recording meetings etc. Personalities aside, the suggestion of giving a brief recap on the Downtown Development web page is a good way to keep up at a glance. One can always read more in depth on areas of interest. This also reinforces transparency, and from a marketing point of view, shows the project's momentum. My point is the city should continually promote the progress on several levels and be open to any and all avenues of publicity. I think it's done a good job but the website is the area that could use more momentum. It's a wasted opportunity. Give it a personality. It's the main avenue residents can access daily.
Mike Kennedy December 17, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Paula, You bring up a good point. We will certainly make an effort to put more materials on the web. As I pointed out in a previous post, the past few weeks have been spent on the finer points of city hall interior detail such as color of the bathrooom tiles and where the entry should be to pay a water bill. Not exactly the stuff of headlines. Tonight, the consultants will provide an update on the city hall interior and exterior and the council will vote on whether to move forward with the construction plans. I have asked for the presentation to be put on the city website.
Julie Hollingsworth Hogg December 17, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Helpful.
Julie Hollingsworth Hogg December 17, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Paula, You have stated really much better than me what I've been trying to say. Thank you for the good articulation. I agree with everything you said in this comment.
Julie Hollingsworth Hogg December 17, 2012 at 11:01 PM
see Paula Milliard's comment above.
Lee at rootsinalpharetta.com December 18, 2012 at 03:49 PM
In the time I've been covering City Hall they've gotten better at providing information online. The meeting minutes could use a little more detail, particularly those of the Planning Commission and DRB. They often will boil down a long period of the meeting by simply saying "Approved with conditions." That being said, there can be a bit of an IT challenge to present some of the material on the web. Drawings and presentations can be quite large. But I think most in the city and on council want this information online. The streaming video is awesome. I also like the city's use of SeeClickFix and crimereports.com. Forsyth County's planning Dept has a nice online permitting system that is searchable and contains PDFs of actual applications. Would be cool to see Alpharetta use something like this.

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