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By Helen Silvis of The Skanner News
Published: 22 June 2011

Do you ever wish you could give someone in government a piece of your mind? Well now you can. And you can do it from anywhere with an Internet connection.

Metro, Portland's regional government, is creating an online panel of people willing to share their opinions about what's right and what's wrong in the Portland Metro region. They'll be looking at everything from health and transportation to schools, community centers, the economy and jobs. These big issues will affect all of us and Metro wants a large, diverse panel so every community can have a voice. Anyone with an email address, who lives in the Portland-Vancouver metro region, can sign up for the panel.

"We want to know what kind of city people want to live in," says Adam Davis, of DHM research, the consulting firm that will host the panel. "So we need a cross section of all races, age groups, ethnic backgrounds and political persuasions."

So far just over 1 percent of the panel is Black, 2 percent are Latino and 2 percent Native American. Those percentages need to rise if communities of color are to have a representative voice. The same goes for young people, and seniors. Teens and twenty-somethings are missing from the panel along with seniors.

It's Easy to Opt-In

It's easy to give your opinion. Once you join the panel, you'll receive one or two emails a month with links to a short survey. "If you want to weigh in on an important policy issue, you can do a survey any time of day 24/7," Davis said. "You can be wearing your pajamas if you like."

If you don't have a smart phone or an internet connection at home, you can find computer access at your local library.

Davis promises that the results of the survey will be posted quickly, so you can see how your neighbors feel about issues and how your views compare.

And while your views will be made public, your personal information will stay private. Metro will get reports on the survey results, but DHM won't release details about individual panelists. "Anonymity is assured because your personal information will stay in our database, and is not shared with anyone," Adams says.

It's easy to sign up, just click the Opt-In ad on The Skanner News' website or visit Metro's "Connect with Metro" page.

Sign Up to Win Cash Prizes

To sweeten the deal, if you sign up before July 15, Metro will enter you in a drawing for five $50 gift certificates. And Metro will hold monthly drawings for $100 gift certificates and other prizes.

To help start the discussion, Metro is teaming up with three nonprofits that work on improving life around the region: the United Way of the Columbia-­â€

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