NYC Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito announced yesterday a new tech program aimed at familiarizing and engaging residents with the city council.
The plan, called Council 2.0, was worked up by an internal committee called the Working Group on Public Technology and Civic Engagement, which consulted with experts in building open digital platforms. Goals include everything from making the council’s website more accessible to soliciting citizen feedback on legislation via social media channels like Twitter and Facebook.
“Council 2.0 will utilize technology to make the Council more responsive, transparent, and open for every resident in this city,” Mark-Viverito, who is also council speaker, said in a press release. “This is a plan that includes and serves all New Yorkers. Through this framework, we will grow the Council into a digitally agile institution that adapts with emerging technology while remaining connected to the public.”
One of the plan’s initiatives is called Council Labs, an ideas website that will allow New Yorkers to visualize the budget process. This should be launched next fall.
“By providing open access to Council data, improving our social media platforms, and taking concrete steps to pilot new models of engagement, we are building a more inclusive city. Like participatory budgeting, more engaging public technology helps us to hear the voices of New Yorkers — an essential step to doing our job right and strengthening our local democracy,” said Council Member Brad Lander, who chairs the rules committee.
More and more cities across the U.S. are making strides toward transparency in the digital age. In February, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced the redesign of the city’s open data portal, OpenDataPhilly. Also that month, Fiscal Focus Pittsburgh made municipal spending and budgeting numbers more accessible in that city. Washington, D.C. has been using an online tool that allows voters to read drafts of council bills and leave comments electronically.
Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.