(POLCO) City of East Lansing Launches New Public Engagement Platform // Matt Kazmierski

I am forwarding a News Release that I just received from the City of East Lansing:


Media Contact:
George Lahanas
City Manager
(517) 319-6920

City of East Lansing Launches New Public Engagement Platform


August 14, 2019

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The City of East Lansing is excited to announce the launch of Polco, an innovative engagement platform where residents can have input in their local government’s decision-making process. This launch coincides with the City’s implementation of Priority Based Budgeting – a priority-driven approach to budgeting that enables resources to be allocated to the programs and services that provide the greatest value to residents.

By using Polco, the City of East Lansing is making public participation easier for residents by meeting them where they are. The City will post questions directly to residents regularly via Polco’s app and website, and residents can begin sharing their feedback by downloading the Polco app for Android or iOS, or by visiting https://polco.us/eastlansing and signing up. The service is free to all residents.

As a part of its Polco launch, the City of East Lansing has posted its first round of questions on the platform, which will help establish a baseline for residents’ thoughts and perceptions about the East Lansing community. Residents can expect a new round of questions to be published every second and fourth Tuesday of each month.

“Residents are encouraged to use this new tool to share feedback that will help guide us in making important decisions here at the City, from the direction of our downtown to budgeting priorities, placemaking efforts and more,” said East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas. “This platform provides citizens who are unable to make it out to our public meetings with an easy, online option for sharing their ideas and input on a variety of topics.”

Polco is committed to a strict policy where they only share aggregated, de-identified results. Participants’ individual data and votes are never shared. Community members with questions about Polco can contact the East Lansing City Manager’s Office at (517) 319-6920.

5 thoughts on “(POLCO) City of East Lansing Launches New Public Engagement Platform // Matt Kazmierski”

  1. The city shouldn’t be designing the questions. One look at the first round makes that crystal clear.

    The EL citizens should be creating the questions.

    Here is one:

    Regarding the ebay sale of the property on Merritt Road:

    Is restricting the number of bidders solicited a good idea in an auction?
    Is the city council tone deaf?
    Is there some underlying underhanded deal going on?
    All of the above.

    Respectfully yours,

    R. Cukier

  2. I’ll be the first to agree with Robert’s point of how the citizens of EL should be constructing the questions, and not the City, based on how lame and general the current questions are.

    Another big question:

    How much is the City spending on this “service”?

    How about some questions re: downtown development and the spending of our tax dollars during a “budget crisis”? (see above questions re: spending)

    The City could post such simple polls for *free* on Facebook, or just utilize their current web site for such simple functionality and engagement. It seems like the Polco marketing /sales person did a great job.

    I understand that this is the very beginning of the use of this service, but to sell it as “an innovative engagement platform where residents can have input in their local government’s decision-making process”, and then to have such pitiful questions, is embarrassing and stinks of the City trying to make itself look good – like they are and have been transparent in their decisions and actions.

    Hopefully we see some improvement in the utilization of this tool, and some transparency about why it was chosen in favor of free options, and how much the City is spending on it. Sorry to sound so negative… maybe I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning 😉

    -Matt Kazmierski

    Public Response administrator

  3. I just took a look at the Polco site, and quickly found a partial answer to the questions raised by Robert and Matt. If you click on any of the current questions, you will see the following:

    “This question is a part of Polco’s Baseline Content, which will be asked at regular intervals over the course of a year.”

    I think this tells us that the initial questions were not created by the City, but instead are a sort of template Polco probably provides as a starting point for every city.

    I can see why they might not want to begin with controversial questions, but for “an innovative engagement platform where residents can have input in their local government’s decision-making process” it’s not a very engaging start.

    – Christopher Wolf

  4. Another follow-up with new, helpful information as well…
    I posted the following question on the City’s Facebook page/post about Polco:

    “How much is the City spending on this “service”?”

    And I just received a reply from the City:
    “We are doing a free trial right now until the end of the year to gauge community interest in utilizing the platform and, after that, will be making a decision on whether to purchase it. We have been quoted $6,000 per year. So far, the response from community members has been good and we will be posting more East Lansing-specific questions in the coming weeks.”

    Thank you to the City for their quick reply and directly answering my question.

    -Matt Kazmierski

    Public Response administrator

  5. I think Dr. Cukier’s four (not one!) questions certainly deserve answers. And, I like the idea that citizens be able to craft the questions they want answered. If the new platform does not provide for that purpose, it should be adjusted so that it can be. So, here would be my answers to the questions:

    1. No. And, every Council Member has answered that question the same way. Council indicated an OK with using ebay to save money but assumed that the auction would be broadly advertised. That assumption would never be made again. But, then again, it is unlikely that ebay will ever be used for an auction of land again for all the reasons the method has been criticized. There will be a request to approve the sale of some City Owned land at 127 and Coleman Road on the November ballot. Whether I am still on the Council or not, if it is approve, it will not be sold through an auction on ebay. We have been down that road and are not going down it again.

    2. I am not sure what this question means. You think the Council ignores the view of EL Citizens? If you think that, you are dead wrong.

    3. Nope, No underlying underhanded deal going on. Unless you mean getting rid of property that has been on the market for 17 years, has an environmental assessment indicating 3.5 million dollars in cleanup costs, had been sold for $850,000 three years ago and had the buyer back out because of the environmental assessment, is next to property sold for far less (Red Cedar Spirits) that a former City Council provided TIF for, and, was sold “as is”. I should add that it now has an approved site plan for a provisioning center, a strip mall and a hotel. It is for sale for 12 million dollars which, if it is sold for that, will mean that its taxable value will be 6 million and, of course, will bring in income taxes. And, that will be before the strip mall and the hotel are added.

    4. See above.

    I am guessing that answers to these questions will read differently when the response is on the Polco site but then we always have Public Response if questions and answers need to be more pointed! I urge everyone to accept that the City is trying to improve communication with Citizens. It has been an effort by the Council for the last 3.5 years. There are more televised meetings, more daily and weekly communications, more social media and more community meetings (another coming up on Deer management on September 26).Give Polco a try. If it does not seem to be producing a good result it will be adjusted until it does.

    Also Respectully Yours,



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