Want to tell Hilton Head town leaders what you really think? Now you can — in a different way.
Open Town Hall HHI is a new section of the town’s website that allows citizens to give feedback on “important Town of Hilton Head Island topics,” according to the web page. Town officials will review public comments and “incorporate them into their decision process,” the web page says.
“A lot of people have to go to Town Hall (to give feedback), but this creates a platform for anybody with a computer,” said assistant town manager Greg DeLoach. “They can do it from the comfort of their home or phone.”
The first discussion topic is on the town’s visioning project. Residents are asked to respond to the prompt: “In our future I want to see a Hilton Head Island that ...” As of Friday morning, the topic had one response.
“It was not created because of the visioning project,” DeLoach said. “It was more of an effort to improve communication with residents and promote civic engagement.”
Rene Phillips, web administrator for the town, said the forum is run by Peak Democracy, a “non-partisan” company based in California that is aimed at “online citizen engagement in ways that build public trust in government,” according to the firm’s website.
Hilton Head’s annual service subscription to Peak Democracy is $7,000, Phillips said.
DeLoach said each online discussion question will be up for two to three weeks, and from “time to time” more questions will be added.
Unlike social media, people can only comment once on each question, which will prevent the “back-and-forth” arguments social media sometimes creates, Phillips said. Any profane comments will be filtered out automatically; if that happens, Peak Democracy might ask those users to revise their statements before they can be posted, she said.
Phillips said when people provide responses, the software program will ask for their address, which will be kept confidential. The address allows the town to use GIS mapping to see where on the island responses originated.
“It gives us a feel of who’s a visitor and who’s a resident,” she said. “(Or) is it representative of an islandwide response or just an isolated area?”
Similar to social media, there is a “support this vision” button that allows users to agree with responses others have posted.