Tuesday, December 21, 2010

CLUCK Outreach: Setting a New Standard

Changes in the Sarasota City Code and City Zoning can be initiated in a number of ways by a variety of entities. Some originate with Commissioners or staff who perceive a need and begin researching ways to improve things. Business interests are another source of proposed changes – the city Planning Board recently spent a lot of time debating awnings and signs at St. Armands. And citizens are free to propose changes and if the City Commission so directs, staff works on drafting proposed changes for the Board to consider.

All these routes include public notice and hearing provisions, but some citizens still complain they never hear about proposed changes until it is too late.

Some people advised CLUCK to take a low-profile, under-the-radar approach to re-legalizing chickens in the City, but CLUCK chose a different high-profile route, undertaking what may be the most extensive and ambitious outreach effort for a volunteer initiative in the City of Sarasota.

Over the past 18 months, CLUCK has utilized seven “channels” or venues to maximize the likelihood interested members of the public can learn about what is being proposed.

NEWS MEDIA: The CLUCK backyard chicken initiative is newsworthy (with lots of pun potential) and CLUCK has cooperated with local print, radio, and TV media to get the word out. Over 20 stories and editorials have appeared to date, most of which can be accessed from the blog.

WEBSITE: CLUCK maintains a website with information about upcoming meetings, Frequently Asked Questions, Common Concerns, and Other Chicken Info. 

MONTHLY MEETINGS: CLUCK holds monthly meetings to educate, entertain and strategize. Meeting topics have included coop comparisons, show-and-tell chicken breeds and we have screened two chicken documentaries.

FACEBOOK GROUP: CLUCK created a Facebook Group to enable Facebook Users to show their support and stay informed. We now have over 500 group members who keep current through Facebook.

CCNA: At the outset of the initiative CLUCK supporters attended a meeting of CCNA (the Coalition of City of Neighborhood Associations) to let representatives from city neighborhoods know about the CLUCK initiative. The CCNA reps provided a number of suggestions that have been incorporated into the draft ordinance. In addition, CLUCK offered to provide a representative to attend neighborhood board meetings to explain what was being considered, answer questions, and listen for additional concerns. This offer has been repeated four separate times so every participating neighborhood has had a ample opportunity to learn about what is being proposed.

EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES: CLUCK has worked with charter CLUCK supporter Alex Coe and IFAS to encourage educational chicken workshops.  Alex’s workshop was held October 15th and the first County Extension “Chickens 101” will be held in January 8th.

CLUCK BLOG: The CLUCK Blog has become a huge success with over 5,300 pageviews, over 70 blog entries and access to local content as well as links to other backyard chicken online sources. In addition, the SarasotaCLUCK blog is linked to SarasotaSpeaks so that additional audiences can find blog postings.

In addition to CLUCK's efforts, City Planning Staff maintains an extensive email list of interested groups and individuals who have been notified about the proposed code changes related to chickens.

The combined effects of staff's efforts, combined with those of CLUCK and the County Extension Office have resulted in an unprecedented effort to inform the public.

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