For those of you who have met me, you know that I’m a pretty easy-going guy. Not much gets me upset or frustrated. But there’s one thing that I find extremely frustrating: learning about something when it’s too late for me to put it on my calendar. Every time I say, “I wish I had known about that last week!” it drives me more and more crazy.
Unfortunately, that feeling is all too common for Waltham residents.
The information for many local events, meetings, volunteer opportunities and programs is NOT getting out effectively to enough residents. And that is hurting the vitality and growth of involvement in this community.
It’s a serious problem but we can fix it.
The solution is simple: The City of Waltham has to become a better communicator. And we need to do it immediately!
The first step we need to take is to truly embrace digital communications. The world communicates via social media today but here in a community known for its technological innovations, we have fallen way behind the curve. The mayor and the city council need to look again at creating a fulltime social media manager. We need to keep residents informed and at the same time promote the best our city has to offer for residents and visitors alike.
We also need to take a closer look at how our city’s website is being used. There are simply not enough updates on it and having to download PDFs to see meeting agendas or a non-interactive form or an event notice is mindboggling.
From an outsider’s perspective it looks as though there may need to be more training across all departments on not only how to properly update the website but also on the responsibility for doing so. City departments need to improve how they update their pages.
Another idea is to provide an informative weekly email digest for residents of all the great events and important meetings and programs going on locally. I bet we could get our friends at Constant Contact (a Waltham company!) to put in a bid to help us with this initiative.
But I’m not only talking about “new school” forms of communication. I also believe we’re lagging in our “old school” communications. I rarely, if ever, see eye-catching posters around the city telling me about a city-sponsored event. I see a few banners on light polls on occasion, but I want to see them lining Main Street from Watertown to Weston. And I can’t remember the last sandwich board I saw at an intersection reminding me to register to vote or telling me of upcoming roadwork.
But all these things cost money, right? Hiring staff and designing and printing signs costs money. But keep in mind, by communicating better we are also marketing our city better both inside and outside our borders. It engages our residents, increases community involvement and promotes our businesses and cultural organizations.
Improving how our city communicates is an investment – an investment in our future that we will all benefit from.
Carlos Vidal is an at-large candidate for Waltham City
Previously published in the Waltham News tribune.