Securing Representation in Citizen Engagement in Bar Harbor, ME: From Town Halls to a Data-Driven Approach
Unlike many cities, Bar Harbor, ME has never had a lack of citizen input. On issues ranging from land development to parking, residents used town meetings and online forums to voice opinions. While successful in getting input, audiences were typically unpredictable and in many cases, not reflective of the overall community demographics. This arrangement led to some citizens expressing frustration that their voices were not heard or taken into consideration. To fix this problem, the Town worked with Polco to create one central location to gather citizen input in a comprehensive way – helping the Town use data to understand who participated in citizen engagement efforts, and who didn’t. In 3 months, over 5% of the population was registered and using the platform. This has helped Bar Harbor verify and document the concerns of its residents, especially residents below the age of 40. This has helped the community strengthen its strategic approach to engaging residents on important local issues, and has led to a higher level of confidence when making decisions that impact the community.