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Some planners think they are likely to attract busy citizens such as working people and older residents if they schedule meetings or workshops early in the evening. Six or six thirty may indeed be convenient for some hard-to-reach people, but it is also dinner time. It is an insult to expect only stale cookies and a beverage to suffice. People are friendlier, to their fellow citizens and the conveners, if their stomachs aren’t grumbling.
The value of food as a way of creating a convivial environment cannot be overemphasized, and should be an expense built into your annual budget. Food is not called for at every regular meeting. But when you are holding a workshop, or trying to draw people to attend a meeting on an important issue such as the comprehensive plan, have refreshments — and indicate this in your meeting announcement.
While no one expects a catered gourmet meal, it is not unreasonable to want to be fed something, and there are inexpensive ways to meet this need. Everyone likes pizza or sandwiches. Local restaurants often will be happy to provide their specialties at a reduced price if you give them recognition. Substitute cold punch for canned and bottled pop and you can save even more money.
In addition to food, there are many other ways to reach out to the public. …
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Elaine Cogan, founding principal of the Portland, Oregon planning and communications firm of Cogan Owens Cogan, has consulted for more than 36 years with communities undertaking strategic planning and visioning processes. Cogan has been honored for her work on a variety of citizen involvement projects.