News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


PRESS RELEASE 01/07/2009
Subject :

Palo Alto Launches 'Open City Hall' Online Discussion Forum
Contact : Kelly Morariu, Deputy City Manager    650-329-2452
Palo Alto, CA – In an ongoing effort to engage with Palo Alto community members, the City is launching a new online forum to allow input on current issues in Palo Alto. Beginning January 8, community members can participate in "Open City Hall," an online discussion forum, designed to capture residents’ positions on important City issues that are scheduled to be considered by the City Council. Residents who are unable to attend City Council meetings are strongly encouraged to log into the forum and state their opinions, as well as read what other residents think about issues. The City Council approved a six month pilot of the forum in October 2008.

"Civic engagement was one of the top four priorities set out by City Council last year," according to Jim Keene, Palo Alto City Manager. "Civic engagement isn’t accomplished by any single program or initiative. The Open City Hall forum is just one simple tool of many to invite more community members to participate in the civic process."

The forum is hosted and monitored by Peak Democracy, a non-partisan company whose mission is to broaden civic engagement and build public trust in government. A few days before each Council meeting, Peak Democracy will post selected agenda items for public comment on Residents can visit the forum, learn about those agenda items, read what other residents have written, then post their own statement up until noon on the day of the Council meeting. Council members will consider input on the forum along with other traditional channels of citizen participation.

"Like City Council meetings, Open City Hall is not a vote or a scientific opinion poll," according to Peak Democracy CEO Robert Vogel. "Rather, it's an additional channel for citizen participation, so that residents who want to learn and participate can do so from the convenience of their own computer on their own schedule."

Web savvy users can follow Open City Hall on Twitter, while participants can share their statements with their friends on Facebook. "We hope that by allowing Facebook users to post their statement for the Palo Alto Council on Open City Hall and simultaneously share it with their Facebook network of friends, that many more people will become aware of opportunities to help shape public policy in Palo Alto," according to Vogel. Residents can visit the forum and sign up for Twitter and/or email updates of upcoming agenda items at

A link will be provided from the City’s web site to the Palo Alto Open City Hall forum. Please feel free to contact Peak Democracy or City staff directly for technical questions regarding the process of the forum. Questions for Peak Democracy can be directed to Robert Vogel at (925) 788-4116 or email . To contact City staff regarding Open City Hall, please direct questions and comments to Kelly Morariu at (650) 329-2452 or .