Pittsburgh taxpayers could soon get a better view of how city government operates and spends their money.
Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak and Mayor Bill Peduto on Tuesday, Jan. 14, said the city would post everything from street paving schedules to building code violations online under legislation that Rudiak is sponsoring.
The release of government data, some of which now requires a time-consuming written request through Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law, dovetails with Peduto's promise to run a transparent administration.
“The raw data that we collect doesn't belong to us,” Peduto said.
The public would be able to track transit vehicles, snow-removal trucks and neighborhood crime trends, among other things, on a city website.
Peduto estimated the cost of labor at less than $100,000. Software needed to collect the information would be more expensive, he said. Every city department is using outdated software and needs technology updates, he said. He could not pinpoint the cost on Tuesday.
Laura Meixell, 28, of Bloomfield, whom Peduto hired as data and analytics manager at a salary of $74,078, said it would take at least six months to get the program running.
Rudiak said she wants feedback from the public on her legislation before council takes a final vote. People can view it on Rudiak's website at pittsburghpa.gov/district4/ and leave comments at the end of the text.
Rudiak said 19 cities across the country, including Philadelphia, have similar programs.
Philadelphia Chief Data Officer Mark Headd said city managers are finding information they did not know existed and putting it to good use. Technology experts are coming up with inexpensive ways to put the information online.
“Last December, we released a large data set on crime statistics,” he said. “What we found was we had about a half-dozen different people take that information and turn it into infographics and visualizations, and all kinds of new uses for this data that we haven't anticipated.”
Peduto said the data can tell city managers such information as the streets with the most potholes and help them find out why they aren't being repaired.
Rudiak said council could use the information to make decisions “based on need and not politics.”
“The opportunities are endless and the possibilities profound,” she said.
©2014 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.)