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What’s New in Civic Tech: Louisville, Ky., Debuts New Portals

Plus, Engaged Cities Award names finalist cities; Los Angeles unveils a new interactive map of local government property; a $12 million philanthropic endeavor supports economic mobility in 10 cities; and more.

Louisville, Ky., has a pair of new portals for residents, the first of which is for businesses and the second of which is for 311 reporting.

Both portals were created via a partnership with the government software company Accela, and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced them this week. The first is the Louisville Metro Business Portal, which can be used for online licensing, permitting and applications. The second is the Metro311 Online Reporting Portal, which is exactly what it sounds like: a portal that can be used to report issues through the city’s existing 311 program. Accompanying the second portal is a new Metro311 mobile app.

In the official announcement, city officials noted that 51 new licenses and permits are now available to citizens online, praising the benefits this would bring in terms of efficiency by replacing the mail-in and in-person processes used in the past.

As is so often the case with this kind of digitization work, the move to online portals also stands to decrease the amount of time that the city’s employees must spend processing applications. Not only that, but Metro Public Works, for example, is using the new software to also track inventory as well as daily routes by its Solid Waste division.

The final benefit the city is praising in connection to the business portal is the cost that will be saved in work hours by enabling its employees to file reports from the field using iPads.

The Metro311 app, meanwhile, stands to make it easier for citizens to report things like potholes, streetlight outages and other requests related to property maintenance, simultaneously giving them a tool to track the progress of their requests via email or online.

Engaged Cities Award Announces This Year’s Finalists

Cities of Service has announced the 10 finalist jurisdictions for its annual Engaged Cities Award, which focuses on work being done by governments to partner with their residents in the interest of improving communities.

This year’s group includes seven cities in the United States, as well as two in the United Kingdom and one in Colombia. The U.S. finalist cities are Atlanta; Aurora, Ill.; Chicago; Flint, Mich.; Lakewood, Colo.; Orlando; and San Francisco. Of that group, several are doing work that involves technology.

Flint, Mich., for example, engaged citizens through its Flint Property Portal by collecting data online about blighted properties. It ultimately used this data to improve neighborhoods. Furthermore, the portal actually displays citizen-generated data about property conditions, which brought attention to properties in need of help and also enabled a centralization of helpful efforts.

Tech was also integral in the work Orlando was nominated for doing. That city integrated citizen feedback into its digital services — both old and new — to get better at responding to its residents' needs. Part of this effort involved a new workshop called the Digital Service Academy, which was used to teach city employees more about creating and testing digital services that were centered on residents.

This marks the second class of Engaged Cities Award finalists. Last year’s competition ultimately saw Tulsa, Okla., rewarded for the work it was doing in its Urban Data Pioneers program, which encouraged both city staffers and residents to use their skills in data visualization, coding and geographic information systems to help Tulsa tackle community challenges.

Los Angeles Unveils New Property Panel Interactive Map

Los Angeles Controller Ron Galperin has unveiled the city’s new Property Panel, an interactive online tool that maps 14,000 publicly owned properties in the jurisdiction, 7,508 of which are directly owned by the city.

Property Panel’s goal is to give the public info that can be used to ensure that governmental properties are put to better use. The idea is that this information will help spark innovations that create economic development opportunities, new affordable housing or any number of other things that can improve the community.

In a press release this week, Galperin’s office traced the creation of Property Panel back to work it started in 2017 with the release of a map of city-owned properties. The new online interactive version has been built with mapping software from the gov tech company Esri along with data from the Los Angeles County Assessor's Office. It marks a substantial upgrade from the previous map, because it now includes all city-owned properties, as well as those owned by a host of other government entities, such as Los Angeles County, LA Metro, California, and even the federal government.

Property Panel uses a color-coded system to make clear which entity owns which property. It also includes locations, sizes and names for each property.

New Philanthropic Endeavor Supports Economic Mobility Projects in 10 Cities

A new $12 million philanthropic endeavor has announced 10 cities in which it will support economic mobility projects.

The endeavor is a collaborative effort supported by three charitable organizations: Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Ballmer Group. The 10 cities it will be working with are Albuquerque, N.M.; Cincinnati; Dayton, Ohio; Detroit; Lansing, Mich.; New Orleans; Newark, N.J.; Racine, Wis.; Rochester, N.Y.; and Tulsa, Okla. In a press release announcing the selections, organizers described this work as “a new national initiative to identify, pilot, and measure the success of interventions to accelerate economic mobility for their residents.”

In explaining the work, the group went on to note that some recent studies have shown that the current generation’s chances to earn more than their parents did are declining, and many across the country face nearly insurmountable barriers to getting ahead, based simply upon the neighborhoods they live in.

As it applies to technology and innovation, the participating cities are now working with Results for America and the Behavioral Insights Team, both of which are partners in What Works Cities, a Bloomberg Philanthropies effort to help jurisdictions overcome challenges by using data and evidence-based decision-making. Through this, the idea is for the cities to enhance their data skills in a way that will help them deliver better results to residents.

The cities will also be working with experts from Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Government Excellence, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Government Performance Lab and the Sunlight Foundation.

King County, Wash. Launches New Mobile App to Battle Noxious Weeds

There aren’t many people out there who like weeds, to say nothing of noxious weeds.

In its battle against such vegetation, King County, Wash., has enlisted a new ally — a mobile app that it built so citizens can use it to report noxious weeds. Local media has the full story

Associate editor for Government Technology magazine.