Using Technology to Enhance Transparency
This issue of Western City includes several features that focus on various aspects of technology and how cities, such as Riverside and Redlands, are putting technology to work to better serve their residents and local businesses. Technology offers many ways for local governments to increase and enhance the transparency of their operations. Furthermore, online communication can help strengthen relationships with residents by facilitating exchanges of information and dialogue. City websites can make it easier and more convenient to do business with the city, and they can also expedite processing requests for public information. Many cities prefer to post as much public information as possible in an effort to anticipate requests for such content. It’s all part of operating transparently and serving the community.
Pasadena’s Proactive Approach
In my city, Pasadena, we think that a proactive approach is best when it comes to providing information to residents and the media. To do this we have taken advantage of current technology in several ways.
We’ve recently added to our website a Pasadena Citizen Service Center, which is also available as a smartphone app for iPhone and Android platforms. The center is designed to provide our residents, businesses and visitors with a virtual city hall, giving them access to Pasadena City Hall 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The center includes a search engine as well as a list of the most frequently requested items and a list of topics spanning city departments and services. Users can submit requests for services and view usage statistics and quarterly reports.
In addition to making it easier for people to access information about services and submit requests, we are also regularly posting information about the city’s ongoing projects, such as:
- A $125 million power plant upgrade;
- The Rose Bowl renovation, which is under way; and
- Individual projects that are part of our General Plan update.
These are a few of the steps we are taking to make the City of Pasadena’s information readily accessible.
Resources to Support Your City’s Efforts
The League offers a broad spectrum of tools for cities that want to increase transparency and take advantage of the opportunities afforded by technology. One excellent example can be found on the League website (www.cacities.org) home page by clicking on the Resources tab and selecting the Open Government page. This page provides links to a comprehensive set of resources related to open meeting law, open records law, transparency law and much more. These resources encompass articles and checklists, as well as compensation surveys and more, and include links to the Institute for Local Government website, which also offers a wealth of information on transparency for local government officials.
I encourage you to take a look at what other cities are doing in putting technology to work for them. Visit the League’s Open Government page for inspiration and assess what else your city might do to reach your residents and local businesses with the information they seek and need.
In virtually every community, some people are quick to criticize local government and seize on nearly any topic — whether controversial or not — to create a conspiracy theory. By making our city operations as transparent as possible and posting a broad range of useful public information on our websites, we can help to build a relationship of trust and credibility with our residents that will offset the conspiracy allegations.
We have all seen how quickly such credibility can erode when wrongdoing in one city taints all cities by association. That is why it is so important for all California cities to continue creating tools and utilizing technology that make local government open and accessible to all. Our state is home to a great deal of technological innovation. Let’s make sure that we are putting it to work as efficiently and effectively as possible for the people and communities we serve.