Zencity hosted a webinar dedicated to ‘Reopening US Cities: Balancing resident Safety and Economic Recovery’ with local leaders from Chula Vista, CA, and Pasco, WA.
Participating in the discussion were Dave Zebell, City Manager of Pasco, WA, Gary Halbert, City Manager of Chula Vista, CA;; and Dennis Gakunga, Chief Sustainability Officer of Chula Vista, CA.
Communications - changing messaging strategies to guarantee outreach and compliance
Gary Halbert and his staff in Chula Vista found that messages that are ‘more friendly and less bureaucratic’ tend to generate better compliance with regulations.
Dave Zabell shared that Pasco changed its messaging strategy in light of the reopening stage, and is now focused mainly on outreach to small businesses to better understand their current position, including a big Hispanic business owners community downtown that was less accessible to the city outreac
Mr. Zabell also pointed out the use that his staff is making of the Zencity dashboard to contextualize the different traffic that council members bring to the council meetings and balance with a big picture of what’s happening in the city.
Reopening funds and resources brought a new need to manage and distribute the various assistance funds
Both Zabell and Halbert shared that their city had partnered up with external nonprofit organizations to assist with the bureaucracy of loan distribution.
As for the CDBG funds for small businesses, both Chula Vista and Pasco prefer giving small businesses grants instead of loans, and operate this directly from the City’s Economic Development department.
Online operations and work from home received positive feedback
Dave Zabell shared some difficulties throughout Pasco’s first online council meetings and the impact of the online platform - spending longer time on each topic, low citizen participation, and more.
Despite that, the WFH policy in general enjoys positive feedback from employees in both cities, and also allowed the city, in the words of Dennis Gakunga, to ‘step out of the City Hall walls and reach out to the community where it actually is’.
In Pasco, remote schooling accelerated the 5G network deployment, which is a positive outcome of the transformation to online operation.
Promoting Digital Equity
Dennis Gakunga presented a plan to promote digital equity that the City of Chula Vista has been developing in the last year, and which became significantly more important in light of COVID-19.
Chula Vista identified that the digital divide between certain communities is directly related to access to devices and broadband internet.
Mr. Gakunga addressed the importance in reassuring that communities have the tools to receive the information the city is releasing, while also closing the loop with the resident’s feedback.
Dave Zabell added that, according to Pasco’s understanding, there’s also a generational aspect to the digital divide.