Community members tired of packing their concerns into two-minute speeches at 1 a.m. every other Tuesday at City Council meetings will get a more informal chance to let municipal staff know what’s up at the annual “Can We Talk?” meetings, beginning Thursday.

There will be six meetings that run between Nov. 3 and Jan. 19, one with each of the neighborhood groups in Santa Monica. A seventh meeting is planned, but as of yet unscheduled.

Former City Manager Lamont Ewell established the annual tradition to gather community input during the budget process, said current City Manager Rod Gould.

“It’s an excellent means of civic engagement,” Gould said.

Although the city has already completed its budget for the next year as part of the two-year budget it created to cover 2011 through 2013, Gould and staff decided to hold the meetings anyway to hear community priorities.

“I can speak for city staff when I say that we get a tremendous amount out of it each year,” Gould said. “They tell us where city resources are valued, what’s working and what isn’t working for them.”

The opinions gathered over the course of “Can We Talk?” have resulted in action on the part of the city.

The “green street” improvements going in on Ocean Park Boulevard between Lincoln Boulevard and Ocean Avenue — which include extended curbs, wider bike lanes and green space in the medians — began as a suggestion from the series.

The format of the meetings depends on the community organization running them. Some are run by a moderator, and others are a question-and-answer free for all.

To find the time and date of a “Can We Talk?” meeting near you, visit www.smgov.net/canwetalk.aspx .

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