Arvada Mayor Marc Williams was in his second term when the novel coronavirus hit his community. The city of approximately 121,000 immediately felt the impact on its small businesses – a hallmark of the community.
Mayor Williams points out how small businesses and the Chamber of Commerce rallied to show that “Arvada, we can do this!” Hear how from Mayor Williams.
Q&A WITH MAYOR MARC WILLIAMS
What personal barriers have you faced in responding to COVID-19 in your community and how have you overcome them?
Just as the pandemic has caused many of us to explore new ways to maintain connections with friends and family, it has also provided an opportunity to find different avenues for interacting with constituents. I’m used to attending a variety of public meetings, local events such as festivals, conferences with local partners, and more to be able to hear from residents and business owners about their experiences in our community. Now many of those opportunities have been postponed, canceled, or as is increasingly the case, occurring remotely over video conferencing services, like Zoom.
The ability to hold City Council meetings where one or more members of Council are participating remotely has been particularly helpful. Our Council was able to hold its first remote meeting just a week after we closed City facilities to the public in mid-March. Within a month, we were able to accommodate more opportunities for public comment, many of which I suspect we will continue to use in the future to provide people with more access to Council discussion and decisions.
What role has technology played in keeping your city up and running – give an example, if possible?
The most obvious example of the vital role technology has played in helping us respond to the pandemic is Zoom and other remote meeting solutions. However, I would credit our City team, and our Information Technology Department specifically, for quickly adapting our IT infrastructure, software, and methods to be able to provide access to these and other solutions so they reliably perform across the City network and other locations. For example, the team quickly developed more streamlined remote access to the City’s network to make it easier for a number of staff to complete time cards, approve purchasing documentation, and more.
I’d also mention a more public-facing example: the City’s nature center has transitioned its program of in-person classes and tours onto an online format, using video and social media. It’s educational and entertaining programming that has the opportunity to reach an even larger audience.
How are you, as a mayor, rethinking public-private partnerships to change policy around serving the needs of your residents?
The City of Arvada’s success to this point has been built on community partnerships, not only with other government agencies and non-profit organizations, but also with our business community, and this approach is integral to our recovery strategy as well.
The City has worked with our local chamber of commerce, economic development non-profits and a variety of for-profit businesses to form the Arvada Resiliency Task Force. It’s an inspiring example of a local partnership that has developed valuable resources, such as business and workforce toolkits, creative marketing campaigns (including the Chow for Champions program where members of the community provide food from local restaurants to local service providers) and resource drives (including collecting PPE for local businesses) to support our economy and connect our community with the services we continue to rely on and enjoy.
At a policy level, the City recently updated its Land Development Code based in part on extensive input from residents, developers and other customers, and the result is a more streamlined development review process, from 12 months down to 4 months for typical reviews. Truly the product of a broad community partnership, faster review times will help our economy more quickly recover and grow in the coming years.
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