Members of city boards and agencies are cutting down on wasted paper and clutter by turning to cutting-edge Apple technology.
Mayor Kristen Brown tapped $7,400 in revenues from Columbus’ share of cable franchise fees to buy 13 iPads, which members of city boards and commissions can use during meetings to access information once available only in printed form.
The cable company adds franchise fees to people’s monthly cable bills. Revenues are divided between the city and county and go into special funds.
Brown said the high cost of providing members of the City Council, Plan Commission and Board of Public Works with thick information packets motivated her to buy the tablets.
She did not know how much the city pays for paper, ink and manpower; however, she said it is substantial enough that the iPads should quickly pay for themselves.
“They’re working out great,” Brown said.
Computer communication has been an integral part of the mayor’s administration since she took office in January. For example, Brown often updates the public on city government activities on her Facebook page and on brownforcolumbus.com. She also is looking into a reverse 911 system that would notify people of weather emergencies with messages to electronic devices.
She said it’s all about improving the public’s access to information that every Columbus citizen should enjoy without hassle.
The iPads, she said, tap into a database of information that everyone who visits City Hall can access with free Wi-Fi. All they have to do is bring a laptop computer, tablet or other electronic device to follow along with a meeting agenda and see the same information the City Council, Plan Commission or Works Board members see.
Susan Fye, a member of the Board of Public Works and Safety, said she loves that the city is using less paper. She said having a tablet ready for her every time she comes to a meeting gives her a way to follow along without 50-plus page documents.
The mayor’s office, as a general rule, has emailed information to board members before meetings to allow members to familiarize themselves with the material. Usually, she prints off at least some of the pages from home. She said having the information available digitally during meetings replaces the need to print out so many of the documents and bring them with her.
Jim Lienhoop, the City Council president, said he doesn’t yet know whether he will like having the tablets during meetings.
“I’m willing to give it a try,” he said.
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