Chris M. Lindsey

Father, Husband, Public Servant, Web Developer

Category: Local Government (Page 2 of 7)

Government and 20th Century Answers

Why Philadelphia’s Chief Data Officer Quit

And that was my single biggest frustration during my time at the city — we were constantly using 20th century answers to problems that required a 21st century solution.

Abhi Nemani on technology in government

Abhi Nemani of Code for America:

In departing, I wanted to share what I’ve learned about coding for America. At the end of the day, it’s not merely about technology and cities; instead it is about the optimism technology confers and the meaning that cities make us crave. What defines this movement is an unyielding belief in the possible. A constant and a fervent desire to try new things, to push new boundaries, to do important work. That’s rare, and that’s special.

The State of Local Government Websites

Kansas classmate Josh Rauch and I wrote an article for the August issue of Public Management magazine. Josh and I opined “Overlooking Your Website? If so, residents and businesses may be overlooking you” for the International City/County Management Association members publication.

Ask yourself: Is your community’s website just a line-item expense? Or is it something your organization is using to give back to and engage with your community? Does your current design support users who visit your site? Does it look good? Can visitors read it? Can they use it easily? Are they getting the messages about your community that you want to deliver?

We believe government websites don’t have to be ugly. It may not seem like a pressing issue in the whirlwind of other responsibilities and challenges, but a well-designed website can be a tremendous help to staff, community residents, and visitors. Be sure to pay attention to it!

I’m really glad Josh asked me to help write this article. The two of us often discuss the state of local government websites, especially those of small towns. Many of these cities, towns, counties, and districts outsource their IT, and their website is an afterthought. And it shouldn’t be.

Josh and I are pretty passionate about providing small municipalities with a better option for a website, so I hope you’ll go read the article. I hope you’ll be hearing more from us on this topic in the near future.

Redesign of NYC.gov

Five lessons from the redesign of NYC.gov – good stuff on GovDesign!

Radical Transparency?

Since when is transparency a radical notion?

Citizenville, Gavin Newsom

Save Money, Coordinate Road Construction!

I was so glad to read this article in Governing magazine from Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene. The premise? Coordinate road construction with utilities to ensure freshly paved roads aren’t reopened for utility work.

This is an issue that has driven me crazy since my days at the University of Georgia. When I lived at Oglethorpe House, the local government repaved the main drag through campus, Lumpkin Street, right out front. Not two weeks after they were finished, someone else (I believe it was the water department) dug through the fresh pavement to work on something. I’ve seen the same thing happen recently where we live in Denver.

B&G identify the costs related to utility repatching fresh roads: $500K in Burlington, VT in a year; $4M in Kansas City, MO, over a three-year period.

So thanks to B&G for proposing a solution: coordination between public works and utility companies. Throw in developers and property owners, and help reduce the costs to provide safe roads!

Great Article in Public Management

Great short story in Public Management, the magazine of the International City/County Management Association, by a village manager in Michigan. Read the whole article (if you can, it might be behind a paywall), but the part that strikes me:

The moral of the story is that most of our communities have faced tremendous challenges in recent years due to the economy. These changes have seen many hard choices made, often involving the reduction of staff and services. The needs of our communities, however, have not changed. In fact, they likely have grown.

I remind my staff that we are in the business of serving the public, and that we work for a company where everyone we interact with is an owner of that company. Everyone we deal with has value and is someone important who should command our full attention.

This is such an inspiration (it’s great to see I’m not alone in this mindset) and it is an honor to work in this field!

Challenge to Remake Our Government

From President Obama’s 2013 Inaugural Address:

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time.  We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government…

Elon Musk on Risk and CYA

Wired magazine is running a great series on Icons to celebrate their 20 year anniversary.

For November, they profiled Elon Musk, an entrepreneur associated with Tesla Motors, PayPal, and SpaceX. This quote really stuck out to me; he was talking specifically about building space rockets here, but I think we all see this:

So, yeah, there’s a tremendous bias against taking risks. Everyone is trying to optimize their ass-covering.

It’s sad, but that’s completely applicable to government. We have to create a culture in government that accepts risk and failure as a consequence of constantly improving.

I’ve got another quote from the same article I’ll post later.

Social Media in the Aftermath of Sandy

Before Sandy hit, I wrote briefly about Google’s use of a crisis map to help residents and responders.

Since then, we have seen actions across the social media boundaries that have helped those affected by Sandy.

And then there is Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey. I’ve written before about Mayor Booker’s use of Twitter. During Sandy and the ongoing recovery, Booker has tirelessly worked to respond to citizens and deliver necessary supplies to those in need. And when a woman messaged him that her power wasn’t on, he invited her and any other residents to stay at his home. He provided wi-fi, his DVD collection, power outlets to charge phones, heat, and food. Pretty incredible in this day and age. For a collection of his best tweets, check out this link.

I think folks, and governments and companies, are really seeing that social media is a two-way street that can work in their favor. But in most of these cases, it seems as if one or two dedicated individuals go beyond the call of duty to help people. And I wonder if the responses would have been the same without these vital employees.

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