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Audience Response Technology Gives All A Voice to Be Heard

A heated dispute between two communities over an annexation request is peacefully resolved with response devices.

CHALLENGE
As Community Development Director with the City of Hailey, Idaho, Micah Austin oversees and directs all economic improvement endeavors from the building inspection and zoning assignments to the establishment of urban renewal planning projects. A dispute emerged between Hailey and its neighboring city, Bellevue, over the annexation request of 227 acres of farmland that separate both communities. Given the size and zoning of the area, concerns arose that it could be converted into commercial development instead of preserving the space as a designated corridor between the cities. Despite the potential ramifications it could have on the entire region, many residents were uninformed about the details surrounding the annexation process. Micah strongly recommended hosting a town hall meeting to present facts and recommendations about the annexation and address questions and concerns from residents. However, he wanted to deliver the information in a way that was different from the traditional public hearing method and allow everyone to voice their opinions instead of having several people dominate the conversation.

SOLUTION
A traditional public hearing involved presenting information and opening the floor to discussion, allowing community members several minutes to speak before moving on to the next person, but that format turned out to be highly ineffective. After researching several different options, Micah opted for Turning Technologies' TurningPoint polling software and audience response clickers to fully engage the audience he anticipated attending the town hall meeting. The solutions offered a new way of delivering information while collecting precise, real-time data. "It made all the difference and transformed a generic PowerPoint presentation into an interactive learning experience where people truly felt like they had a voice and that they were being heard," said Austin. Incorporating TurningPoint and the response devices allowed him to inform residents about the annexation that was enlightening and provided people the opportunity to suggest and vote on a list of recommendations the City of Hailey could then present to Bellevue City Council and the mayor.

RESULTS
About 100 people participated in the town hall meeting and blending Turning Technologies' solutions with the presentation proved to be benefical to improve public insight about the property annexation request. "Feedback at the conclusion of the meeting was incredible with residents saying they finally understood what was going on with the annexation, resulting in a significant impact to help shape public policy," state Austin. "The technology allowed us to propose 13 recommendations and from there community residents from both Bellevue and Hailey voted on wha they would like to see done with the proposed annexation." Even though no timetable had been set on when a decision will be reached, the town hall meeting ignited a groudswell effort from Bellevue residents to put a stop to the annexation and raise questions to council members. As a result, several people challenged city council members for their seats in the November election.

As for using TurningPoint and audience response clickers, Micah invested in his own set for future projects moving foward. "I would like to incorporate the technology for every public hearing I have that involves a controversial isse," stated Austin. "It's such a powerful tool that allows you to instantly gather, save and print accurate data which speaks volumes."