Derek Danziger joins Katz & Associates as New President

Posted on in Uncategorized

CEO Sara Katz and new President Derek Danziger

CEO Sara Katz and new President Derek Danziger

We are thrilled to announce that Derek Danziger will join K&A as our new President. He will be responsible for oversight and strategic direction for the firm’s three offices and 40 employees.

Danziger has more than 20 years of strategic public relations, marketing and communications experience, primarily in the public sector, and is well-known in the San Diego business community. He most recently served as a vice president at Nuffer, Smith, Tucker (NST), where he successfully developed the firm’s Public Outreach and Community Relations practice. Prior to his work with NST, Danziger served as vice president of marketing and communications for the former Centre City Development Corporation, media center director for LEGOLAND California, director of media & public relations for the Super Bowl XXXII Host Committee, and a manager in SeaWorld San Diego’s education department. He is currently a board member on the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and an alum of LEAD San Diego. Danziger is a graduate of UC San Diego.

“Our leadership team made a strategic decision to realign the president role to focus on growth and strategic market position,” said Sara Katz. “We are already known for our communication expertise in water, transportation, energy and environmental projects, and we want to strengthen that position as well as diversify our portfolio more broadly. Derek’s experience and network will serve us well as we look to expand into other private sector areas that complement our public sector practice areas,” said Katz. “In addition, Derek’s management style is in alignment with ours and as such, will be a great addition to the firm.”

“I’m excited to help lead and grow a well-established team. I enjoy the opportunity to help organizations strategically tell their story, manage their brand, and interact with the public across many sectors of business,” said Danziger. “I also look forward to working throughout the state with the K&A team as their presence and client roster is impressive.”

Danziger succeeds Lewis Michaelson who assumed the leadership roles of chief operating officer and president in 2012 after being with the firm for 13 years. During his tenure he helped the firm achieve steady growth, improve internal operations, increase profitability and transition to an employee-owned company. He made the decision to step down as President, allowing him more time for other interests such as traveling and to work on authoring a book. Michaelson will remain with the firm, continuing to provide strategic counsel, training and lead facilitation for existing and future clients. He will also continue as part of the firm’s management team.

Derek begins his new position full-time on November 6th.

Building Resiliency Beyond
the Infrastructure

Posted on in Public Involvement, Water

1162 Install carrier pipe_editedReflecting on time spent the first week of October in Chicago at WEFTEC, Water Environment Federation’s annual water quality technical conference and exhibition, key themes emerging from conversations on the exhibit hall floor and during sessions were: aging infrastructure, sustainability, climate change and more. As the largest conference of its kind, bringing together over 15,000 participants from around the world, it is no surprise that these themes are all top of mind for utility managers, operations personnel, financial analysts, consultants and communications officers responsible for providing critical services to their communities. And central to all of these issues was a discussion of resiliency. What does it take to be resilient? What are the core ingredients for building resiliency?

Certainly resiliency has been tested in the wake of several natural disasters across the country from flooding and hurricanes in the south and Puerto Rico, to earthquakes in Mexico, and wildfires in California and the west. Each event has highlighted how essential water and wastewater systems are to our everyday lives and the severe consequences when these systems are in disrepair and cannot function properly. Unfortunately, public focus is tuned to problems in the wake of disasters, but gaining interest in the importance of building resiliency, and all that it entails, is much more challenging in “normal” times when systems are functioning well, out of sight and out of mind. The reality is, most Americans take water, and the systems that bring it to and from homes and businesses, for granted. They turn on the tap, flush the toilet, and don’t think twice about where the water came from or where it goes.

The truth is, however, that ensuring this reliability and building resiliency requires upgrading existing and building new water and wastewater infrastructure, upgrading systems and technology, training a new generation of operators and workers, maximizing economic benefits of infrastructure, protecting vulnerable communities, and ensuring access to clean water for all. The great news is that many utilities are investing in all of these areas. However, an important – and often undervalued – ingredient is the commitment required to bring customers into the infrastructure and investment conversation, helping them understand the infrastructure needs in their communities, and ultimately building public support for those investments. It is safe to say that most people would prefer their water rates do not go up, especially since many consumers have embraced an improved water ethic of using less water, but are asked to support higher water rates.

Sometimes we are so enchanted by the shiny new pipes or latest technological innovations that it is easy to forget that people are the center of resiliency.

As such, it is imperative that conversations and engagement go on at all times with your ratepayers so when there is a needed ask of your “investors,” there is a better understanding and appreciation of the need and a greater likelihood of support.

The next truth is that there is a monumental financial investment required across the nation to address aging infrastructure and build resilience. These investments, also known as rate increases, will not happen without informed consumers and supportive opinion leaders and stakeholders who will foot the bill. Knowing that—today we at Katz & Associates are joining nearly 700 organizations across the country who are coming together for Imagine a Day Without Water—national day of education and awareness about the importance of our water and wastewater systems and how they connect to the daily lives of all Americans. We are proud to join forces with our partners and clients, both engineering firms and water and wastewater utilities, to highlight the connection between needs and solutions. As consultants helping our clients communicate about things that matter, we hope others will join and use this day of action to start a conversation with your networks about the essential role water and wastewater systems play in our daily lives, in our economy, and in our ability to be resilient in the face of climate change and natural disasters.

Katz & Associates is committed to helping communicate the important work our clients are doing, so customers can imagine a day without water, but never have to experience it.

11 Outreach Strategies for Potable Reuse

Posted on in Best Practices, Public Involvement, Water

Potable_Water_Reuse_IDIn general, the public’s perception about recycled drinking water can be summed up in a few (and sometimes negative) catch-phrases. Here’s what we’ve learned over the years to begin to turn-around these perceptions:

  1. Start with research: Who are your audiences? What do they think? What do they understand?
  2. Get the language right: Do not assume your audiences know anything about potable water or how their water supply is maintained for their benefit.
  3. Talk tech, but do it briefly and simply: Photographs, graphics, and simplified descriptions have been proved to aide communication success.
  4. Build alliances: A coalition of supporters can create a powerful bandwagon that can attract members of their own circles of influence.
  5. Query your team’s attitudes: When identifying stakeholders and audiences, make sure your own employees are at the top of the list. Find out what they think or what they need to know.
  6. Promote two-way communication but manage expectations: Invite input where it can be used, but set realistic expectations for how input will be incorporated.
  7. Develop a message platform: The ultimate message goal is for people to see potable reuse as an acceptable alternative because they have been well informed in a transparent way.
  8. Use graphics and videos: Given the complexity of reuse projects, clear graphics will be tremendously valuable in helping customers visualize a project and understand technical aspects.
  9. Establish a news bureau: Get ready for media relations and develop a rapid response plan to address misinformation or misunderstanding.
  10. Use social media judiciously: It can be helpful, and can be dangerous. Understand it’s power and be strategic.
  11. Touring is believing: Solid graphics are great; hands on experiences are even more powerful. Where demonstration or touring is possible – make plans early.
Adapted from “Getting to Yes, Public Outreach for Potable Reuse: Bring the Public to a New Level of Acceptance.” Sara M. Katz and Patricia A. Tennyson, Journal AWWA, November 2015.

Reaching Businesses and Residents the Old School Way

Posted on in Best Practices, Community Outreach, Construction Relations

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New infrastructure can be progressive and much-needed for reliability, safety and quality of life. But construction can cause frustrations for commuters, residents and businesses who are only seeing it as road work and a maze of detours. Due to the high impact of road closures required for construction of 11 miles of drinking water pipelines, the City of Fresno’s Recharge Fresno Program team has focused on field outreach and doorhangers as a primary method for ensuring impacted residents and businesses know what to expect during construction.

The water pipelines, called the Regional Transmission Mains, currently in construction along congested business corridors and residential areas, will bring a new source of surface water to a community that has historically relied on groundwater. For the safety of construction crews, full road closures are required during construction, including sidewalk, bus stop, parking lane and driveway closures. While social media and media outreach with the City of Fresno’s communications department have been helpful in communicating to passersby and commuters, a tailored doorhanger distribution approach has been successful in notifying residents and businesses along the pipeline route – the most severely impacted properties.

For this project, the outreach team worked closely with CH2M during the design and construction phases to develop a comprehensive series of notifications, including one mailed postcard and five doorhangers to notify all properties along the alignment. Two weeks and 72 hours before traffic control goes into effect in a new section of work, all properties in the section receive a mailed postcard and then a final doorhanger 72 hours before. Three more reminder doorhangers are distributed daily and timed according to 72 hours before, 24 hours before and the day of driveways being blocked. A restoration doorhanger is left after the active construction is completed, and notifies property owners about paving and road restoration work in the coming weeks. This approach requires the contractor’s commitment up front, but it has led to more community cooperation because stakeholders are more informed.

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Below are some key strategies that have helped with the success of the field outreach approach:

  • Keep It Organized: To stay organized, the construction contractors were given kits with seven different doorhangers (Monday through Saturday). When they know which day construction will impact a specific driveway, the corresponding doorhanger is distributed. Once construction in front of a driveway is complete, the final restoration doorhanger is distributed.
  • Translate All Notifications: Because construction is occurring in a very diverse community, all construction notices include information in English, Spanish and Hmong. City staff provided assistance with in-person field outreach and multicultural communication to ensure language is never a barrier to stakeholders receiving information.
  • Set Expectations: The doorhangers clearly identify the impacts and work hours in order to set realistic expectations. The goal of ongoing outreach is to avoid surprises and ensure accurate information despite a dynamic environment of active construction.
  • Give Reminders: Distributing the doorhangers 72 hours before, 24 hours before and the day of a driveway closure gives residents extra time for planning their daily access. It helps them plan to park on a side street and walk to their properties, notify customers about the change in access and ask for help if they have special access needs. The day-of doorhangers and in-person contact is the most important reminder and often allows residents one last chance to move vehicles.
  • Tie to the Big Picture: The team always likes to say that “it’s short-term pain for long-term gain.” The purpose and need for new water infrastructure is included in all project communication, in an effort to remind ratepayers that the reason for construction is much more significant than just tearing up the road.
  • Clearly Identify Contact Information: The outreach team fields calls through an information line and emails through a website contact form. Both options are included prominently on all notifications so stakeholders know how to reach the team, if needed.

More than half of the water pipeline has been constructed to date, and this comprehensive outreach approach has ensured residents and businesses have clear expectations, accurate information and identified team contact information throughout construction.

K&A Supports Multiple Public Meetings on East and West Coasts

Posted on in Community Involvement, Environment, Environmental Impact Statements, K&A Staff, Katz Connection, Public Participation

From San Francisco to San Diego, and up and down the East Coast, our team has been on the move supporting a number of recent public meetings for Caltrain, the U.S. Navy and the City of San Diego. And while planning and executing public meetings is one of our many specialties, each project requires its own unique approach to achieving meaningful engagement with its stakeholders.

giphy (1)Caltrain Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project

A series of public meetings for the Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project are currently underway, with the first of 11 public meetings held in San Bruno on July 13. In attendance was the mayor of South San Francisco, Caltrain council members and a member of the California State Assembly!  Our team will get to know many stakeholders along the peninsula corridor as this high-profile project gets rolling.

More about the project:  Over the last decade, Caltrain has experienced a substantial increase in ridership and anticipates further increases in ridership demand as the Bay Area’s population grows. Caltrain electrification, scheduled to be implemented by 2020/early 2021, will electrify and upgrade the performance, operating efficiency, capacity, safety and reliability of Caltrain’s commuter rail service.

giphy (2)U.S. Navy Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing

These meetings were part of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process for the U.S. Navy’s Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing (AFTT) draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)/ Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (OEIS). A series of meetings traveled down the East Coast, starting in Providence, Rhode Island on July 19 and ending in Panama City, Florida on August 3. The meetings provided an opportunity for the public to talk directly to subject matter experts and provide comments on the draft EIS/OEIS. In preparation for these meetings, our team developed seven fact sheets, five posters and six 5 ft. x 5 ft. fabric displays. We also created six videos based on these large graphics. The videos were shared on the project website to give those unable to attend the meetings a chance to participate virtually. The logistics of shipping the plethora of materials from location to location on a tight schedule was a challenge for our team, but they were up for it – nothing was late or lost in transit!

More about the project: The Navy has prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (OEIS) for Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing (AFTT) activities in the sea space and in the airspace over the Atlantic Ocean and the eastern coast of North America, portions of the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. The Navy has conducted previous analyses for these types of activities in the AFTT Study Area and signed a Record of Decision in November of 2013. This new AFTT EIS/OEIS analyzes the continuation of military readiness activities in the AFTT Study Area beginning in late 2018 into the reasonably foreseeable future.

IMG_1195City of San Diego De Anza Revitalization Plan

Last month, our Environmental & Public Participation team supported the sixth and last ad-hoc committee meeting for the De Anza Revitalization Plan. The project team presented two refined draft concept alternatives for discussion by the Committee. An Open House directly followed the meeting, allowing the public to review the alternatives in detail, ask questions and provide feedback on the identified uses and design for this northeast portion of San Diego’s Mission Bay Park. Due to the regional and diverse interests of the Project, the Open House drew over 240 people!

More about the project: The De Anza Revitalization Plan project, an amendment to the Mission Bay Park Master Plan, is a three-year comprehensive outreach and planning program designed to reimagine, repurpose and revitalize the northeast corner of Mission Bay Park in San Diego. The Mission Bay Park Master Plan does not provide specific land use concepts for the De Anza area, therefore, the City of San Diego initiated a special study that will result in an area-specific development plan. In compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a rigorous community engagement plan is currently underway, giving community members and other stakeholders a chance to comment on the project’s alternatives and draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR).