The City of Berkeley (the “City”) has partnered with OpenGov, a third-party online forum provider, to create a civic engagement platform named “Berkeley Considers” that will allow the residents of Berkeley to get more involved in City government. Berkeley Considers is a forum for the discussion of proposed City projects and upcoming policy topics related to local government in the City and its partner agencies. The topics are generated by City staff or the City Council Agenda Committee for the purpose of public participation in current government decision making.
To ensure that all voices are heard and that forum participants are able to speak freely about the posted topics, participants who register to use the forum must agree to not post disruptive statements. Disruptive statements include the following:
- Statements that do not relate to the posted topic;
- Personal attacks and statements that threaten or abuse other forum participants, members of the public, City staff or City officials;
- Hate speech; Content that promotes, fosters, or perpetuates discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, age, religion, gender, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, national origin, physical or mental disability or sexual orientation;
- Statements containing any sort of commercial advertising or soliciting funds for commercial purposes;
- Statement from users who have falsified their registration information with the intent to post multiple statements in one topic or to misrepresent their city of residence; and
- Statements that include obscene, pornographic, abusive, or otherwise illegal material.
- Private, personal information published without consent of the individual identified;
- Content that violates a legal ownership interest of any other party;
- Information that is likely to compromise the safety or security of the public or public systems;
- Campaigning with respect to candidates or ballot measures
- Direct advocacy with respect to specific candidates for elected office,;
- Incitement of illegal activity;
- Photos or other images that fall in any of the above categories; and
- Hyperlinks to material that falls in any of the above categories.
OpenGov, acting as the forum monitor, will remove any disruptive statements that are posted on the forum. Forum participants who post disruptive statements may lose their posting privileges.
Frequently asked questions about the participation guidelines
Why does Open Town Hall monitor for disruptive statements?
OpenGov is a non-partisan company dedicated to building public trust in government through the broadening of civic engagement. It is OpenGov’s and the City of Berkeley’s experience that many people who would otherwise participate in governmental forums, such as City Council meetings, will not participate, if the result is that they are subjected to abuse or insult, or if the forum itself is disrupted.
Does Open Town Hall find many disruptive statements?
No. Disruptive statements are quite rare - less than one in a thousand statements on topics moderated by OpenGov nationwide are disruptive.
What does Open Town Hall do if they find a disruptive statement?
- moves the statement to an unpublished area,
- describes the problem in an email to the author, and
- invites the author to change the statement or invites the author to email it directly to the City Council without changes
Does Open Town Hall ever edit statements?
No. Only a statement's author can edit a statement. If a statement is removed from the Berkeley Considers public website, it will still be seen by the City of Berkeley and be part of the public record.
If I disagree with someone, can I post my opinion?
Yes. Open Town Hall encourages open dialog and debate which, by necessity, includes disagreements. Statements of fact, or of your own opinion are generally not personal attacks.
How do I know if my statement is a 'disagreement' or a 'personal attack'?
Here are some examples of statements which are, and are not, personal attacks.
Should the Council approve this agenda item?
Is there anything you would like the Council to consider regarding this agenda item?I get around Berkeley on foot and on public transit; I'd like to ride my bike more, but I don't feel safe biking on many streets in Berkeley because there's no protection from cars and so much dangerous driving. Making our streets safer for biking and walking will create a virtuous cycle - as more people find that biking, walking, scooters, etc., are viable options for them, they will stop their reactionary pro-car advocacy, and it will become easier to enact more pro-human, pro-climate transportation policies in the future.