The City of Dallas ran its first TTHM teletownhalls in August of 2013. Since then, Dallas has grown its use of our virtual forum technology to include more residents each year.
Those 2013 events focused on the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. They were an opportunity for Dallas residents to interact virtually with their council member and city staff. Thanks to Dallas technical staff, they were also shown on public access television. Council members and Office of Budget staff highlighted important aspects of the budget, encouraged residents to dig deeper online, and got feedback from residents in the form of questions, comments and poll results.
When it came time to discuss the budget in August of 2014, Dallas scheduled more teletownhalls to involve the public in that process. Except this time around they took advantage of our fledgling Spanish Simulcast option. Dallas was our first client to insist on including a Spanish-language participation option for every single teletownhall forum. As a result, the Spanish-speaking community in Dallas regularly listens longer and participates more fully in virtual events – submitting questions/comments and voting in polls – than any of our other clients.
Our participation in Dallas teletownhalls has increased even as residents have moved from landlines to mobile phones. That’s because Dallas was also one of our first clients to leverage Peer-to-Peer Text Alerts to invite mobile users to their council district teletownhall. We have managed an opt-in list of Dallas residents since 2016 that grows each year and brings an informed, invested audience to each Office of Budget Teletownhall event.
TTHM also updates the Dallas phone outreach list every year to ensure that they reach current residents and – perhaps more importantly – new residents. For a couple years Dallas used our now-defunct Voicemail Drop service to reach mobiles, and then made the immediate leap to the superior Text Alert service. The City of Dallas always maximizes its investment in quality phone data.
Reaching mobile phone numbers early and often in the transition from landline to mobile phones has kept Dallas in touch with a diversity of residents while other municipalities have lost touch with large segments of residents. Our Text Alerts and Web Registration Pages for the city have generated the largest set of opt-in outreach lists that we maintain for any client.
Over the years, TTHM has run Dallas teletownhall discussions around Code Compliance, the distribution of HUD funds, development of the Trinity Watershed, Office of Homeless Solutions projects, and much more. In 2020 when the world went into lockdown, the City of Dallas ran dozens of events in a two-month span that bridged the gap between the end of in-person meetings and the rise of virtual webinar meetings. Those teletownhalls kept Dallas staff and residents in the loop as city leaders ensured that key services and opportunities remained open to citizens.
As we prepare for another round of City of Dallas Budgetary Teletownhalls, it was worth reflecting on how far TTHM has come since its inception in 2011, and how Dallas has been there nearly the whole way. It was also worth remembering how Dallas has always gone big when it comes to keeping residents informed and engaged.
There are too many Dallas city staff past and present to thank here. So I will close by saying that it has been the joy of my career to ride the tech wave with those dedicated individuals in Dallas public information and information technology who made so much positive outreach happen. And a special ‘Thank You’ to the council members and council staff that went the extra mile to respond to individuals in their district who raised concerns through our forums.
Public outreach never feels so good as when it does good. And I know that myself and the rest of the TTHM Super Staff feel like Dallas gave us the opportunity to help them do good in their community. Traveling to Dallas all these years has made it a second home, and I always look forward to a craft pint and choice brisket in Deep Ellum. Until next time Big D, thanks again.