About 3 times per month my City Council in St. Petersburg meets to discuss and vote on local issues. Aside from knowing the name of my district representative, I generally have no idea what he’s voting on or if I should re-elect him. That’s a shame because (forgive the web-speak) he’s dealing with hyper-local issues: as in things that impact me within 30 square blocks. Stuff that really matters to tax payers.
Instead, I yell at the TV when I hear that the new crosswalk on my corner cost $200,000 to build, or bitch that nothing’s being done about the drainage problem when (A) I could have voiced my concern about the cost or (B) I should have read that the drainage problem will in fact be fixed in January.
But hey, A&B are not my fault. One thing we can all agree with in the age of Gov 2.0 is that government-to-citizen communications should be accessible and easily understandable – and the launch of PlainLanguage.gov kind of shows government is starting to get that too.
There area a handful of initiatives going on at the congressional level (like GovTrack) but very few that deal with the NIMBY issues. Conor Sullivan’s Localocracy is probably the best entrepreneurial effort I’ve seen, and I hope his framework takes off. Granicus on the other hand is the 800 lb gorilla that is best-positioned to do something about it, but to date I’ve only seen them help government stream video of their meetings and publish agendas (maybe they can share examples on the engagement side in the comments). It’s not that I can’t make it to the meeting – it’s that I want a simple summary.
How I Would Do It Better
I took my CB2 prototyping to the extreme this weekend and challenged myself to redesign the information presented in St. Petersburg’s City Council (official link), Meeting Agendas (official link), and Meeting Minutes (official link) in a manner that would better communicate what’s going on in my city. Of course an afternoon’s effort didn’t yield perfect results, but I’m very happy with the outcome.
Areas I focused on:
– Simple, clean, pleasing user interface
– Easily learning about upcoming and recent votes
– Connecting the names and faces of my City Council to issues
– Social media integration (share/discuss this issue with friends)
– Pushing the full formal documents to the background
– Most of the links are clickable (maps, videos, etc) but not all
– A weekly email of upcoming and resolved issues would be awesome, but I ran out of time
– Some language was edited for better display. These are mockups
Now that you’ve seen my designs, what do you think? Share your ideas for the next generation of City Council websites in the comments section below.
Chris Bennett is a self-proclaimed emergency management innovator who is trying to make government better by improving citizen preparedness and crisis communications. He’s a graduate of Wharton with a master’s from Harvard with in “Technology, Innovation, Education.” His portfolio of companies and former projects include OneStorm Hurricane Preparedness, ReadyTown, GovLive, TexasPrepares and America’s Emergency Network. Chris was the recipient of FL Governor Crist’s 2008 Public Information Award. He lives in St. Petersburg, FL, loves to fish, and has been spotted sharing a pint with GovLoop Founder Steve Ressler in Tampa.
What does CB2 Mean? “Chris Bennett’s Crisis Blog.” It was originally CB Squared but the superscript 2 never took, so now we’re rocking the big 2.