FORT WAYNE – Fort Wayne residents now have several more ways to have a conversation with Mayor Tom Henry and his administration.
On Wednesday, Henry announced the second phase of his online SmartGov initiative. It now includes an updated website, a social media presence, a community forum and a city-run blog, all found at www.cityoffortwayne.org.
The new tools will give residents a chance to present their ideas to the city, ask questions and find useful information, Henry said.
Our residents have great ideas, and we want to hear them, he said.
The first phase of SmartGov included posting city contracts and expenses on the city’s website. Deputy Mayor Beth Malloy said the latest phase is more about giving residents the opportunity to interact with the administration.
It allows people to register for email updates on city news releases, job postings, parks information or pet adoptions. The new website also has a calendar of city events, including neighborhood presidents’ meetings.
The SmartGov feature now also allows residents to see bills that have moved through the City Council, how members voted on them and video of the bill’s discussion.
Malloy said Clerk Sandy Kennedy’s staff spent countless hours scanning documents and gathering information to create the site, which includes bills going back to the start of last year. It is expected to be updated weekly.
The new tools include a widget for an iPhone that lets users know when sections of the city’s trails are closed because of flooding.
The online rollout also includes a city presence on Facebook and Twitter. Henry’s first tweet directed people to a link asking them to adopt a playground to keep it safe and clean.
It also drew some derision from others on the site, who questioned whether the mayor had to get his tweets checked by Carolyn Grisko & Associates.
The city hired the Chicago firm last fall for $72,000, an amount that falls just below the threshold that requires council approval, to help create a strategy for how the city can use online and social media tools.
Malloy said the firm helped develop many of the policies for the tools unveiled Wednesday. She said the firm helped create a system for ensuring that fresh content is consistently posted to the website, for example.
One of the policies the city had to create was on how to handle public comments. Malloy said the city will allow negative comments to be posted but not disrespectful or vulgar ones.
The city also likely will need to update its internal policy on Internet use, given that Facebook and Twitter were blocked by the city offices’ computer system and could not be shown during the presentation.
Malloy said the new tools will likely add about 20 hours of work a week for the city staff, but that is being shared by numerous people. She said it is hoped the tools eliminate some work and costs for city departments, such as printing and mailing notices about meetings.