Citizens for Open Government in Côte Saint-Luc presented a video outlining their concerns and announced their support for Robert Libman’s plan to implement “Smart City technology” for the City, said Charles Guerin today, who spearheaded the initiative. The video can be found at:
Guerin and Libman have both commented on how any citizen request for information has to go through the circuitous maze of an official “Access to Information” request which is refused systematically and can take up to 30 days to process.
Municipalities across the country are seeking to become more transparent by making more council meetings in open meetingsrather than closed caucus. In Cote St Luc, it appears that some city decisions are made in closed caucus and that limits citizen’s access to participate and understand how decisions are made.
Ultimately Cote St Luc citizens have limited access to data, and limited access to the decision-making process, and this must change.
“A city government is ‘transparent’ only when its citizens can clearly understand what the government is doing at all times”, said Libman who announced that he would gradually transform Côte Saint-Luc, into a “Smart City” with online dashboards of city operations, finances, projects and objectives so that residents can see for themselves at any point in time “what the city is doing” and answer the question “are they doing it well?”.
“We want to achieve this key goal of making Côte St Luc a truly Open City”, said Libman, “and join cities across North America who are quickly realizing the benefits of truly transparent government.”
This initiative will achieve:
- increased trust
- more accountable workers and officials
- engaged and involved residents
- better quality services
- lower taxes
Libman added that “Empowered with facts, residents will be encouraged to participate in government and also respond and communicate directly with the city via a 311-style telephone and online service that will report and track how the city handles their complaints, problems, potholes, suggestions, ideas and concerns and make sure they are addressed rapidly.”
An Open City will reduce the stress of city workers who will see the same information and have the same opportunity to communicate and create an exciting city environment where ideas for improvement are appreciated rather than derided.
An Open City achieves transparency by leveraging modern technology and enacting policies that promote inclusion, citizen engagement and democratic values.
Modern city governments achieve transparency in 3 key steps:
1) UNDERSTAND WHAT THE CITY IS DOING
By placing all financial and public information online for their citizens in a readily-understandable system called “Open-Data”, cities across Canada (and the federal government itself) have become vastly more transparent.
Open Data achieves transparency, accountability and public participation and enables each citizen to monitor the success or failure of public policies, in “real-time”
2) REPORT PROBLEMS, SEE RESULTS
By providing a 311 “help desk” style system such as that used in hundreds of cities across North America which allows a citizen who reports a pothole to see when and if the work was done. Usually this is done online, sometimes with a call-in system as well.
3) ADDRESS OUR ACTUAL NEEDS
By involving citizens not just in initial “fact finding” discovery sessions but also in the review of decisions before they get a “green-light”, you prevent the waste of millions of dollars in potentially useless or harmful directions. After the “green-light”, you continue getting feedback and can stop a crack in the dam before it becomes a flood.
Open Data does not need to be costly. By a basic policy change on how information is shared, and via the use of existing websites, the initial creation of public open data sets can be made very inexpensively. Once the initiative becomes the standard in all city departments, there are several off-the-shelf systems used across Canada such as “Socrata” which supports multilingual formats. Socrata links to the city website and provides the tools for everything from data collection, data cleaning, analysis, and dashboard reporting for standardized Open-Data. It costs about as much as one medium placed city employee but in the long run can easily economize for the costs.
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Robert Libman Charles Guerin