A Public Comment Primer

SmartComment’s Tips for Creating an Effective Project Comment

Blog Picture

When it comes to public comment management we at SmartComment don't play favorites. Every comment that comes into our system is a valued part of the proposal dialogue – from that 1,000-word comment entered into a SmartComment web site to a written comment from the public put in a box at a public hearing.

We look at each of these public comments like our children. Each and every one that's entered into our public comment software has a special place in our family. The loud one, the polite one, the thoughtful one, the rambunctious one – they're all accounted for, heard and responded to – all the while diligently funneled toward graduation into the proposing agency's final report or Environmental Impact Statement.

Fact is, we truly do appreciate and admire anyone who takes time out from life's other priorities to stand up and represent the public in matters that far too many people assume are being adequately considered and weighed by, well... someone else.

But as these tiles are formed into a public engagement mosaic, we can't help but notice that some submitted opinions simply have that special sauce. With the noticeable zing and the savory aftertaste. That way of getting their point across that makes us want to stand up and clap our hands. That blend of articulation and reason that we just know other people are going to notice too.

So with that ideal in mind, here are SmartComment's official tips for writing a truly effective public comment.

Posted on July 23, 2015
Read more

Summertime Safety

Transportation Agencies Battle Spiking Highway Deaths

Blog Picture

For many Americans, summer is a time for rest and relaxation.

But to the agencies managing our nation's highways, summer has a very different reputation -- as the deadliest three months of the year. It's an alarming and seemingly contradictory fact: twice the number of people die on America's highways during the summer than during the rest of the year combined, as seeming benefits like dry roads and clear visibility are offset by factors such as heavy traffic (road trips, vacations, etc.) and a significantly higher number of intoxicated drivers. Of course these facts are well known to the nation's safety and transportation planners, who find themselves in nothing short of a war with the rising tide of grim statistics, and are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to reverse them. So as we yet again enter this paradoxical season of lowered inhibitions and heightened danger, SmartComment takes a break from public comment management and looks at how the problem is being tackled by those policing and protecting our country's roadways. And when the task is convincing Americans to slow down and sober up, the transportation agency battle plans we found are marked by communication, humor, creativity – and even tragedy.

Posted on June 25, 2015
Read more

The Drought-Time Players

Cities Cast in a Central Role to Solve California's Water Crisis

Blog Picture

Perhaps no state in America offers a more varied or vast cultural landscape than California, which boasts enough iconic cache to fill an entire continent. From South Bay surfers to Silicon Valley data pioneers, from Hollywood studios to hardscrabble adobes, the state's distinct, fantastically diverse imagery has long aided its residents in bucking any outside attempt to classify them under a single banner.

Likewise, its cities operate less like conjoined governmental units than they do individual cultural fiefdoms. If you've ever watched the Game of Thrones opening that majestically showcases the kingdom's far-flung outposts (Dorne! King's Landing! Winterfell!) you know how it feels for Californians to look at the cities on their state map – each Spanish-tinged name offering something starkly and viscerally different from the others in a way that's almost lyrically crafted.

Posted on June 11, 2015
Read more

DEQs Prioritizing Public Engagement Online

Success Stories in Environmental Agency Outreach

Blog Picture

Okay, so I know we saythere's a new era of public engagement going on out there. But there's really not. In fact, most people have been performing effective, modern public engagement for years – with the friends and family in our personal lives. After all, we all know how we want visitors to our homes to feel. We want them to feel wanted, not just welcome. Attended to, not just noticed. So we happily put in that little bit of extra work to ensure their experience is a good one. Give a little, get back a lot. The only thing that's new in public engagement is applying this same standard to the way decision-makers interface with their clients, stakeholders and customers.

Posted on June 4, 2015
Read more

Five Ways DOTs Are Making Highway Sides Great

Rest Stops, Call Boxes Make for Roadside Wonderland

Blog Picture

All over the country, transportation agencies work around the clock to keep our nation’s roads safe, clear and driveable. But they’re also responsible for a vastly larger and more dubious area of our nation's infrastructure – the sides of those roads. Because for every mile of highway in our country, there are twice as many miles (that’s one on each side, buster) of medians, shoulders, cloverleafs, and culverts to keep safe, trimmed, trash-free and occasionally even useful. Once the sketchy domain of hitchhikers, traffic tickets, and accident disputes, these marginal masses of land are going through a bit of a renaissance in recent years and are now home to some amazing and, at times, even adorable efforts on the part of our country’s transportation planners. So with no further ado, here’s the official SmartComment list of the best things happening beside America’s byways.

Posted on May 28, 2015
Read more