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Monitor Notes: Independence Day Inspiration

A Special Message from Cecily

Cecily O’Connor produces Monitor Notes and covers transportation for the magazine.


The Monitor Notes weekly email newsletter is about one month away from its first anniversary, an important milestone I’m excited to mark with a rising subscriber base.

When I began writing Notes, the Bay Area Monitor’s website had recently re-launched. Setting the email newsletter into motion was a complimentary way to gear up the publication’s reach. Notes would deliver a brief, easy-to-read batch of news and announcements, with its weekly rotation making it possible to cover more air, water, open space, and transportation activity.

The first Notes edition I wrote last August featured a Fast Company piece about the use of greywater in commercial projects and challenged readers to brainstorm a transformative $1 billion transportation idea for MTC and ABAG’s Horizon planning initiative. Notes’ also offered perspective, based on earlier Monitor coverage, about the policy and other factors behind these issues. My editor Alec MacDonald and I felt confident about this course of action to establish Notes and its voice.

Still, we regarded the newsletter as a work in progress. Toward the end of 2018, it was clear that tweaks were necessary. Alec encouraged me to think about Notes in a more targeted way and unfold opportunities that encourage people to actively participate in the public process. Instead of relying on news from other outlets to generate content, my focus shifted to white papers, public discussions, and surveys from nonprofits, universities, think tanks, and multiple agencies shaping local policy.

So, for example, if there’s a public meeting about a transportation plan occurring in the Bay Area, we want to notify you of that opportunity to take part in regional policy decisions. Notes will tell you about new bike safety measures being studied in the plan, why it’s important to know about those measures, and how to share your ideas about them.

Earlier this year, a transportation-related example reinforced the need to help people learn about planning in their community. In our January 23 edition, the lead item highlighted the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District’s plan to raise the bridge toll over five years. Notes shared that the District was holding in-person and digital open houses for the public to learn more and comment.

The plan seemed likely to generate significant feedback, since the span carries about 112,000 vehicles a day — but the public response was underwhelming. The Marin Independent Journal reported that “despite several public workshops, an online open house, a public hearing, advertisements and other notices of the toll increases that have taken place since November, only about 60 people provided public comment” about the District’s decision to hike tolls.

So with July 4 patriotic spirit in the air, it’s a good time to think about the role you’re carving (or would like to carve) in the community. My hope is that Notes not only informs you but inspires you to contribute five minutes to a transportation spending survey or an hour to attend a meeting about sea-level rise. With more eyeballs on the looming 2020 election, Notes also will direct you to vital local and national voter information as it develops from the League of Women Voters.

I’ve received some reader feedback over the past 11 months, including encouragements, questions, and challenges to re-think items featured. This feedback really helps me plan and gauge the content Notes provides. Do you have thoughts about the newsletter but haven’t yet shared them? I am truly interested to hear them! 

While the newsletter is on a reduced summer publishing schedule in July, you will hear from Alec toward the middle of the month with a few updates. In the meantime, here are some parting items to consider:

  • Do you have a plan to stay safe during wildfire season? PG&E is hosting wildfire safety and emergency preparedness workshops throughout the Bay Area. Click here for the schedule.
  • Attend a discussion on Tuesday, July 16 with local representatives like state Senator Scott Weiner at SPUR’s San Francisco center to hear the latest on what’s happening with housing legislation.
  • Check out an article the Monitor‘s Robin Meadows wrote for bioGraphic magazine, exploring how California’s interior valley rice farms are being repurposed as surrogate floodplains to help restore endangered Chinook salmon populations.

Thank you for reading and supporting Monitor Notes!


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