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On the "Citizenville Challenge"

2013-03-01 23:28:40.63745+00 by Dan Lyke 0 comments

I'm shopping around some of my using technology to improve my civic environment ideas, and got a suggestion that I look at The Citizenville Challenge. I'm also apparently the first person talking to some of these groups from an under a hundred thousand population city, so I think there's some re-thinking of how these challenges apply to smaller cities that needs to happen. This is some thinking-in-public on the Citizenville Challenge list:

Adopt a standardized data format.
The two examples given are LIVES (restaurant inspection) and GTFS (transit). Petaluma's transit system is already integrated into 511.org, so presumably there's a way to get that data out as GTFS, and restaurant inspection data is a county function, available on-line, and so far as I can tell the only application for this is Yelp. Do we really want to be helping them?
But deeper than that, getting data out of the city processes to a large extent involves having that data be accessible in a digital format in the first place. The city IT department wants to publish everything they can. So getting new data out involves process changes within the government structure, which means that we both have to understand the existing processes and come up with a more efficient and cost-saving way to implement that process with technology. Can you say "mine field"?
Implement a Gov 2.0 policy.
Petaluma has a social media policy, and various people within the government are interested in open data. Other departments not so much, and then we're back to the problem above.
Launch a citizen engagement app.
Seems like there are a gazillion ways to pass information up to city officials. From http://seeclickfix.com/ to the attempts to use UserVoice to get input from Petalumans. What this requires is a communication channel to elected officials, and what that requires is educated citizens so that requests are intelligent enough that the officials aren't wasting their time by responding to them.
More data out would be awesome, the San Francisco Rec and Park app looks cool, but it shouldn't be an app, it should be a web site, and it should be run by the Chamber of Commerce or the Petaluma Visitor's Program or the Petaluma Downtown Association. You'll also notice that they've received 20 ratings for that app. What's the development cost per download ratio there? Or will anyone say...
Host a community event.
Done that. Will be doing more of that. It's a continual process.
Institutionalize innovation.
Hey, cool, a budget item! And have you seen the Brown Act recently? Part of the reason I resigned the Technology Advisory Committee was so that I could talk with people about building cool things! Less snarkily, we have an economic development advisor, Ingrid Alverde, and she's doing some good work, but this is the sort of thing that requires an institutional shift, and in a small city with a tight budget, we need good models for "this is what this change will bring". We don't have the resources to toss a full-time person at, and part-time, our city employees are already doing the best they know how.
Create civic APIs
Love to. What data would people like to work with? Anyone? And we're back to creating a reason to look at data.

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