County opens up to public
May 30, 2009
Hillsborough residents who don't like the way county government spends their tax dollars will soon have a way to question commissioners' budget decisions directly.
Upcoming budget meetings will be the first "virtual town hall" events, during which residents can comment or ask questions via e-mail or phone.
"It allows people to participate in county government from the comfort of their homes," said county communications director Lori Hudson. "No more driving downtown or driving to some location."
She said the service should be ready by June 9, the first of four fiscal 2010 budget hearings. If not, she said the July 16 budget hearing will be a virtual town hall meeting, as well as public hearings Sept. 8 and 17.
People can tune in to hearings on the county's cable TV station, HTV, or by online streaming video. They can e-mail questions to hcbudget @hillsboroughcounty.org or call a number yet to be established. Commissioners will try to answer the questions in real time.
The virtual meeting grew out of Commissioner Al Higginbotham's request for ideas on how residents could get involved in the budget process. He and other commissioners rejected more expensive ideas, including video teleconferencing of residents asking questions. It would have cost $15,000 to $30,000. cost for a virtual town hall meeting is $136 for posters to promote the service.
"There are people - I'm one of them - that like to see people I'm talking to. It's that human touch you like," Higginbotham said.
"I'm glad we explored it and now we'll do, at a minimum, the e-mail access to the budget meetings."
For details on county media services, go online to www .hillsboroughcounty.org and click on Communications Department.
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