BRECKENRIDGE - Citizens in Frisco and Breckenridge can now tell their governments exactly what they think about local issues and participate in community conversations thanks to a new online public-engagement tool going live this fall.
Breckenridge and Frisco both recently launched the MindMixer program - a web-based tool that attempts to bridge the communication gap between governments and the public, giving individuals opportunities to offer feedback on government decisions and local issues - and are already seeing dozens of people participating in online conversations.
"People who live and work in Breckenridge best understand what our needs are," Breck Mayor John Warner stated in a recent town release. "So the best way to provide plans that meet those needs is to give people the opportunity to participate in the process."
Approximately 100 people had signed on to participate in Breckenridge's MindMixer program a week after it went live. Frisco has had more than 300 interactions on its 2013 budget plan which was posted on the site in September.
Officials with Summit County government, the Summit School District and the town of Silverthorne are also considering launching similar MindMixer platforms.
Breckenridge launched the tool in an attempt to increase public engagement and get a broader sampling of residents' opinions on hot local topics, such as a proposed plastic bag ban.
In Frisco, MindMixer provided an opportunity for the town to collect feedback from the community on next year's proposed budget, but officials expect the program to continue to be useful on other issues as it becomes more widely used.
"It's still new enough that a lot of people haven't found it yet," Frisco Town Councilman Kent Willis said. "But I think that as we move down the road and the word gets out, we'll find more and more use for that. It's always good to increase the opportunities for people to communicate with the government."
But on Breckenridge's site, EngageBreckenridge.com, MindMixer is already showing the potential to be more than a way for citizens to respond to government-issued surveys. It is becoming a platform for community dialogue.
In addition to giving participants an opportunity to weigh in on town staffers' questions - such as the proposed plastic bag ban - the site allows residents to post their own ideas on ways to improve the town. Other users can then "second" those ideas or comment on them. Other users can respond to those comments, generating a conversation.
"EngageBreckenridge.com offers people the chance to share their vision and ideas," Warner stated.
Currently, conversations are happening around the town's fireworks display, the proposed Breckenridge Grand Vacations development at the base of Peak 8, a playground at the Riverwalk Center and the town's lone movie theater, the Speakeasy.
EngageFrisco.com is generating similar conversations, though to a lesser extent.
The MindMixer program requires users to create an account with their name, birth year, zip code and email address in order to participate in online conversations, giving town administrators knowledge of who is commenting on the site and where they live.
The MindMixer company, which provides customized, individual engagement websites to roughly 200 municipalities across the country, promotes positive interaction. Company administrators monitor comments for harassing, obscene and derogatory material and delete them. Users who continue to post negative comments violating the company's guidelines can be suspended or removed from the site.