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iPad success allows Santa Rosa council to ditch paper

Santa Rosa City Council members are so enamored of their sleek new iPads that they decided Tuesday to begin conducting most of their business electronically.

The council voted unanimously to stop printing paper versions of their weekly agenda packets and to begin using their Apple mobile devices to review reports, ordinances and other documents during public meetings.

City staff estimates the change will save 91,000 pages of paper and $5,200 per year.

Councilwoman Julie Combs said she was enthusiastically in favor of going digital after trying out her iPad while she was out of the country recently.

The legislative software application on the device allowed her to download Tuesday's agenda, review it, write notes to herself on it, email questions to staff and have them respond.

"I think that the legislative software package really does the job," Combs said.

Other cities in the region have already made the switch. Council member Ernesto Olivares called the decision "a long time in coming."

Vice Mayor Erin Carlstrom said the savings will be even greater than staff estimated because the council's decision allows other boards and commissions to follow suit, such as the Planning Commission and Board of Public Utilities.

"I think it's a great direction that we're heading," she said.

City Clerk Terri Griffin stressed the change will not reduce public access to paper versions of the agenda. A printed copy will remain at the front counter of the city manager's office, and one will be available at the Sonoma County library downtown, she said.

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