Pittsburgh Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak has proposed the digital equivalent of opening all the doors and windows of city government offices.
Her breath of fresh air is a proposed ordinance that would transform promises of transparency in government into a practice giving citizens easy access to information. If approved by council and signed by Mayor Bill Peduto, who favors it, the “open data” ordinance would lead to a new city website containing a wealth of data.
Laura Meixell, appointed by Mr. Peduto as Pittsburgh’s first data and analytics manager, would create the site, and every city department would have a coordinator responsible for producing an inventory of information for display.
All records considered public under the state’s Right to Know Law could be available online, eliminating red tape. Once it is in operation, citizens and businesses would be able to find everything from the location of reported potholes to paving schedules, from building permit applications to budgets.
This proactive approach is more than a tool for residents. Mr. Peduto wants the city to better utilize the data in-house to measure how departments are performing and to figure out new ways to efficiently get jobs done. Proponents also hope that outside technology developers eventually will create tools like one devised for Chicago, which allows residents to track snowplows during a storm so they can pick clear routes for driving.
All of that potential starts with the ordinance’s underlying premise that citizens have a right to “prompt, efficient service” and that “it should be easy to do business with the City of Pittsburgh.”
City council should not waste any time approving this forward-thinking measure.