E.V. officials ditching the paper that comes with meetings - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

E.V. officials ditching the paper that comes with meetings

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Posted: Tuesday, January 4, 2011 4:11 pm | Updated: 5:00 pm, Thu Jan 6, 2011.

When the East Valley's elected officials meet to make decisions large and small, getting things done requires more than reaching a consensus.

It also takes paper.

Reams upon reams of the stuff.

Cities have for decades spent an untold amount of money printing dozens of informational packets - with each packet often taking at least one ream - every time a city council meets.

But East Valley cities are going green by ditching paper and adapting a digital approach.

Mesa is the latest city to make the switch, and Scott Somers became the first councilman to swear off paper late last year.

"In the four years that I've been on the council, we've probably cut down a forest that my children will never see," Somers said.

Mesa prints about 20 informational packets for each of the roughly two meetings held a month, translating to about 10,000 sheets of paper every time the City Council comes together. Stacked up, that would measure about 3 ½ feet tall.

Mesa's staff is approaching the rest of the council this month to see who is interested in going all-digital, said Carla Wagner, an executive management assistant to the city manager. The city has spent a year introducing new technology that makes it easier to ditch paper, she said, at the direction of the council.

"I anticipate that they will all be willing to go electronic," Wagner said.

The switch hasn't been without bumps.

Somers celebrated his switch to paperless on Twitter once he became comfortable with going digital, then he tweeted one morning this week that his iPad crashed, was unreliable and "may be the biggest piece of garbage ever devised." By the end of the day, he declared he was "back on speaking terms" with the device.

Chandler was the first East Valley community to ditch paper, in 2002.

The city once printed 40 to 50 packets per meeting, City Clerk Marla Paddock said, recalling one meeting where each of those bundles was eight inches thick.

"It was like, oh my gosh, you've started weightlifting or something," Paddock said.

The city began the switch in part to make it easier for the public to access information prior to Monday council meetings, as the packets were produced on Friday. A copy of the packet traditionally was sent to the library so it could be accessed on the weekend before a meeting, Paddock said, but an online version made access even easier. Gradually, the city had its staff and City Council rely solely on the digital version. Now, Chandler prints a copy for the city attorney to mark up during meetings, and one that's required for the clerk to keep on file.

For meetings, the only paper issued is an agenda that runs four to six pages. The city long ago stopped sending a packet to the library, and Paddock said she's had no complaints that the paper copy is gone.

"Never," she said. "I can't recall the last time that happened."

Gilbert stopped printing copies for its council members and many staffers last year, town spokeswoman Beth Lucas said.

Tempe is exploring a paperless approach, as City Manager Charlie Meyer has gone digital and Council members Cory Woods and Onnie Shekerjian are experimenting with a laptop and an iPad, respectively. The officials will report to the rest of the council this month, city spokeswoman Nikki Ripley said.

Somers said he always tossed his stacks of paper in a recycling bin, but prefers another approach to paper.

"Recycling is great," he said, "but never having to use it to begin with is even better."

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CONTACT WRITER: (480) 898-6548 or ggroff@evtrib.com

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