Staff increases transparency while simplifying the preparation of staff reports, agendas and supporting materials
The City of Reno, known as “The Biggest Little City in the World,” is located just east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Northwestern Nevada. The City and the surrounding area of Truckee Meadows provide residents and visitors with a wide range of indoor and outdoor recreational activities, including biking, camping, hunting, fishing and mountain climbing, all within a 50-mile radius of the metropolitan business center.
ADAMANT ABOUT TRANSPARENCY
The Reno City Council meets regularly to set priorities, approve the budget and address issues facing the community. These meetings are guided by incredibly stringent open meeting law requirements. Staff must post the agenda, along with all supporting materials, on their website at least three days prior to a meeting. Additionally, if any documents are presented during a Council meeting to help make a decision, it must be uploaded within 24 hours after the meeting.
As a Senior Management Analyst, Jaime Schroeder has been responsible for all staff reports, supporting materials and the agendas for the Reno City Council and the Reno Redevelopment Agency Board since early 2012. Back then, the agency was using a government shareware product. “We realized we had quickly outgrown that system,” recalls Jaime.
The City’s communications and technology departments conducted a thorough search of alternatives and narrowed the list down to three contenders. “We looked at Accela Legislative Management and realized it was the full package,” says Jaime. “It was something we felt we could implement and get comfortable with quickly.”
HOW ACCELA EMPOWERS RENO
One of the things Jaime appreciates about Accela is that “they believe in their product so much, you don’t have to sign on for a year. With Accela, we didn’t feel they were trying to get the most money they could from the agency. We felt they truly were a company that wanted to work with us and were understanding of all the different requirements we had.”
City Council meetings are on average four to six hours long, and Council members run two meetings in the same room on the same day — one for City Council and one for the Redevelopment Agency Board, with many of the same people participating in both meetings. The team at Accela came up with a unique solution to manage both meetings by using two video encoders side by side.
In the past, citizens had to fast forward and rewind through an entire meeting online in order to find what they were looking for. “The great thing about this product and why we chose it is that the video of each meeting is integrated with the meeting documents and it also has time-stamp features, making it easy for staff and citizens to quickly find what they’re interested in. I love that transparency. It just makes it so much easier.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
What staff members appreciate the most is the ability to quickly search for things themselves instead of having to initially rely on someone from the Clerk’s Office to look through a database. Once a document is posted online, staff and citizens alike can access it through a meeting portal 24/7. When citizens request a Council or staff report, employees can simply direct them to the portal, where they can click on the meeting date, see the agenda and then click on the item that interests them. When the media requests information, the Communications department can send links to staff reports online, saving time, paper and money and helping to ensure accurate media coverage.
Proofreading staff reports is much easier now that they are in a consistent and professional format. “Making sure all questions are answered in a consistent format is much easier,” shares Jaime. “Even making a small change a year later is simple — staff can just duplicate an older staff report and make the change. Everyone has already signed off on the report and there are no errors to correct, so only the change has to be approved.”
In the future, the City of Reno is looking forward to using the electronic voting feature available within Accela Digital Boardroom that shows meeting participants’ votes on a screen during the meeting in real time. The clerks are looking forward to being able to see who made a motion and who made the second without having to go back through the entire video.