Baltimore City has taken another step to encourage digital communication with residents through a new platform called Open City Hall.
Mayor Pugh this morning announced the rollout of the website, which was designed by California-based Open Democracy. The program allows city agencies to post surveys online to collect feedback from residents. Open Democracy has developed similar platforms for Salt Lake City, Saint Paul, Minn., and hundreds of other towns, according to its website.
Mayor Pugh said the goal is to let Baltimoreans “visit” City Hall online. Presently, the Baltimore City Health Department and the Baltimore Police Department are the first of 12 agencies to try it out. Both have posted surveys seeking public comment.
The one from the health department is designed to collect data on health disparities between neighborhoods, ranging from infant mortality to mental health and trauma to violence.
“We know that there are neighborhoods in our city that are just a few mile sapart but the life expectancy can differ by 20 years,” said Health Commissioner Leana Wen at the announcement. She noted that many of these disparities exist despite the fact that Baltimore has some of the world’s top health institutions. As always, the health department is trying to figure out why.
“We embrace innovation and public-private partnerships, but always making sure that community voices are integrated,” Wen added.
Police, meanwhile, are using the platform to collect feedback from residents about ongoing reforms. Commissioner Kevin Davis said it’s an effort to promote increased transparency, a word he described as “one of those words that you hear from lecterns during press conferences…they don’t mean much unless we do something about it.”
BPD’s survey poses the open question, “What are your priorities for the police department’s reform efforts?”
Davis said he looks forward to reading the responses. “We may think we know what folks want, from time to time, but unless we are actually engaged with people, we really don’t know,” he said.
Mayor Pugh also added her own survey to the mix: “What are the top 3 questions you’d like to ask Mayor Catherine E. Pugh?”
All three questionnaires are live and up for the next 30 days. A staffer from Pugh’s office said all city agencies will eventually use the platform.
The change comes shortly after Pugh’s administration moved the housing permit system online to make that process smoother for homeowners and developers. Days before, the city also launched a site to track where your car is if it gets towed to a city-owned lot.
Click here to give Open City Hall a try.