Making a case for Web 2.0 funding in a community of almost any size.

What does the Finance Director say? This usually stops any mid-fiscal year funding discussion because “It’s not in the budget.” Usually, that’s the end of the conversation. And that’s the problem.

What does the public say? Does the public want to fund this park or that road or any of the programs presented by City staff? Why or why not? Municipalities of all sizes have councils that meet regularly and make decisions for the rest of the community. They have the final say on the budget. That’s why we elect them. Now, local council members make decisions based on their own opinion and based on the input given to them by citizens during the (usually short) time they are given to make any decision. Web 2.0 is a platform for citizens to give timely input to their local representatives.

For example, following a meeting or agenda announcement, concerned citizens could comment on any of the items on the agenda. This would mitigate the impact of lobbying by special interests or council members’ small circle and provide a forum for other folks to get their side of the story to their municipal representatives. Quickly, and in time for decision-making.

Web 2.0 platforms could be directly placed on municipal websites. Many cities have private, anonymous, chat or forum areas where citizens rake their local governments over the coals behind the safe curtain of anonymity. Under these circumstances, the truth suffers and Municipal employees have no chance to answer questions.

So how do we get the Finance Director on board? The Council, City Manager and the citizens have to let Finance know this is the way that they want their government to work. We have to show them how to do it. It won’t cost much, (compared to a road or a sewer or a school,) but a municipal government must work better when communication with taxpayers and citizens is responsive to local decision-making time lines and gets information where it needs to be. How do we do it? Tell your friends. Tell your councils. We’ll get to the tipping point as fast as we can.

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ROI is the hard part. As a friend said, how would you write a ROI for email or the telephone? I think we need to develop new metrics as well as a valid story for these new tools. But eventually it will just have to happen as it will be self-evident. What’s the ROI for the State Department to have access to the Internet – I don’t know but Colin Powell said this is stupid, I want the Internet now.