Spend time with some government CIOs and you'll come away with the impression that most elected officials can't turn on a PC without help. But Eric Garcetti, president of the Los Angeles City Council, easily defies the stereotype. Not only does Garcetti answer his own e-mail and blog regularly, he and his staff also serve as technology guinea pigs for the city, testing open source software and other applications.

In an interview with Government Technology in May 2006, Garcetti discussed an array of technologies and how they can improve the quality of life in the nation's second-largest city.

Among other things, Garcetti talked about how GIS maps could be used to diffuse neighborhood opposition to zoning changes and promote better understanding of the city planning process. He also spoke about the growing importance of wireless connectivity, and how power poles and other assets owned by the massive Los Angeles Department of Water and Power could pave the way for developing a citywide Wi-Fi initiative.

Garcetti -- a Rhodes scholar who taught public policy, diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College and the University of Southern California prior to his City Council election in 2001 -- pointed to current city IT successes, such as a popular 311 application and one of the nation's most sophisticated traffic information systems. And he added that Los Angeles is poised to make further progress.

"I think our city's been structured to keep government out of your life. What's changed over the last year or two, is we're finally admitting that we're a city instead of a sprawling suburb," Garcetti said. "So we almost have to rebuild the infrastructure of a city -- both in physical and technological terms -- and embrace being a city."

We fully expect Garcetti to help lead that charge.

Steve Towns  |  Executive Editor