When District E Councilwoman Cyndi Nguyen scheduled meetings with constituents and stakeholders at New Orleans City Hall, she noticed many people showed up late, often citing traffic or problems finding a parking spot downtown.
So come January 2020, she’s offering constituents and others the option of conducting that meeting via FaceTime instead.
Anyone who wants to video chat with the councilwoman can schedule an appointment through her office, as they would for an in-person meeting. Nguyen plans to allot around 30 minutes per FaceTime call, she said, with some exceptions.
Nguyen said since she took office in 2018, her staff has been looking at ways to make meetings with her more accessible. Earlier this year, they began offering monthly appointments with the councilwoman at the New Orleans East Library for those who could not make it to City Hall. But it wasn’t until one day when Nguyen was FaceTiming her children that she thought of using the video-calling software for meetings.
“When I was FaceTiming the triplets, I was like, wait, why can't I FaceTime people that I meet with?” Nguyen said. “You don't have to literally physically be there. It is just a matter of making sure that I'm not distracted with other things and I'm focusing on their issue.”
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Nguyen said she hopes the option makes it easier for people who don’t have access to transportation, who live farther away or have busy schedules to communicate with her and participate in city government.
She also is considering offering call times after traditional work hours and on weekends to accommodate those who can’t meet with her during City Hall’s regular hours of operation: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The councilwoman also conducts a weekly Facebook Live broadcast and is launching a weekly morning show for her district this week called “Wake Up District E” on a cable access channel. Nguyen will co-host the show, which will discuss events in her district; her office is working on making the show available on YouTube.
Nguyen said she is open to the possibility of using Google Hangouts and other video conferencing applications down the road for people who don't have Apple devices and aren’t able to use FaceTime.
“We're going to feel it through,” Nguyen said. “I'm pretty sure by the end of next year, I'll be the queen in FaceTiming.”
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