The City of Hamilton’s new online public meeting platform is up and running! If you are interested in what the city of Hamilton is up to and want to examine all the relevant information, this is the site to visit: www.hamiltonspeaks.net.
Hamilton Speaks is an online platform where action items (issues) for City public hearings (e.g. subdivisions, annexations, zone changes, etc.) are placed for the public to review and provide input on ahead of the actual public hearing. At Hamilton Speaks, community members can review application materials, staff reports, and staff presentations. They can also ask planning staff questions and make public comment which is visible to decision makers and becomes part of the public record.
According to City Planner Matthew Rohrbach, the site was designed not only to make it easier for members of the public to inform themselves and participate in the decision making process, it also allows for an extension of the meeting time over a period of weeks instead of just a few hours. Anyone, including council members can check up on the site and see the comments coming in before the actual public hearing.
“This will make for greater public participation as well as meeting demands for higher transparency in public meetings and legislative processes,” said Rohrbach. The site would not replace the city’s current website but would complement it. It is a software system designed to allow for extended public hearings that could last days or even weeks. He said more information should be available to the public earlier and it will be easier for the public to comment and participate in the decision-making process. Links to the records of the live meetings will be uploaded to the town’s website in the same way current information is made available.
Right now the program is limited to actual public hearings, whether they are held before the City Council, the Zoning Board of Adjustments, or the Zoning Commission, etc. But Rohrbach calls it a work in progress. He said there is the potential to expand the use of the program to deal with regular city council actions and business apart from the issues that require a public hearing, but right now Rohrbach says, “We want to get our feet on the ground before expanding the operation.”
“I think it’s a useful tool and I hope it gets a lot of traction,” he said.