Fort Worth conducts first Twitter Town Hall

08/14/2014 3:18 PM

08/14/2014 3:19 PM

Mayor Betsy Price likes Fritos on her sub sandwiches, says girls should be bossy to be strong leaders and urged residents to vote in the Nov. 4 election for the new 14,000-seat arena in her first Twitter Town Hall during Thursday’s lunch hour.

Price answered over 50 questions from Twitter followers, with topics ranging from her favorite brunch spots to her opinion of Fort Worth’s debt.

The town hall, which went from noon to 1 p.m., was geared to a younger generation of residents that can be difficult to connect with at traditional town hall meetings, she said.

“It is a different group you reach on Twitter,” Price said. “Younger generations tend to be busy with their job, their children, their marriage, just all kinds of things and I don’t know they always realize the importance of being connected.”

“But they are all on social media. Everyone has a smartphone, everyone has got an iPad or some kind of tablet, and it is a great way to reach them.”

Some of the city’s top executives came to the virtual town hall prepared to answer a wide range of questions, with newly hired City Manager David Cooke following the hashtag #AskBetsy on his iPhone, and Chief Financial Officer Aaron Bovos coming to the town hall with the proposed budget for fiscal 2015.

Cowtown goes digital

The Twitter Town Hall is one of several recent efforts to connect with users online, with the city launching its first open data website in July, creating an easier search tool to find city documents in early August and using a social website to get public input on everything from the 2014 bond program to the 2015 budget.

“We said this is the year of technology. When I was elected three years ago, a little better than three years ago, that was one of the biggest complaints from people, that the City of Fort Worth is not in this century on technology,” Price said.

“It is critical. People don’t have the time to drive down here, take off from work or take away from their family and come. Parking is difficult. We have to reach out and touch people where they live.”

The open data site, data.fortworthtexas.gov, has certificates of occupancy, development permits and residential permits available for download in several formats, including Excel and PDF. The goal is to get the most-requested data online first, like crime statistics, code violations, and the progress and location of capital projects, officials say.

The city’s finances and restaurant inspections that can link to applications like Yelp and other online reviewers, will come as the city’s technology improves.

The new search system for public documents, found at publicdocuments.fortworthtexas.gov/csodocs, lets users search meeting minutes, informal reports, ordinances, city contracts, agendas and resolutions by topic.

Before, curious residents had to know which specific council meeting or ordinance to look through to find the information they wanted.

Initially used to get public input for the 2014 bond, the website yourfortworth.org is currently asking residents where public art projects should be located and is also urging residents to allocate funds in their own way for the proposed fiscal 2015 budget.

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