TECH

New York Wants To Make It Easier For New Yorkers To Say Their Piece

"I get very troubled when I run into bureaucracy that is unyielding and unhelpful."

NEW YORK -- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio launched a website on Monday meant to open up the city government to greater scrutiny from the citizens it serves.

On Monday, he announced the new site -- dubbed the city's "Digital Playbook" -- will aim to make more services available online, including tools that help citizens communicate with officials about, for example, pot holes or problems with the city's new wireless Internet. 

"I get very troubled when I run into bureaucracy that is unyielding and unhelpful," de Blasio said at an event hosted by Huffington Post Editor-In-Chief Arianna Huffington at the Civic Hall tech center. "It really bothers me."

He said antiquated technologies rig the system of governance in favor of the privileged.

"We see many elements of our governing reality that feel rigged to people, and in fact often are rigged," de Blasio said, acknowledging a buzzword that has become prominent in the populist wave at the forefront of the 2016 presidential election. "The way to defeat that and the way to overcome it is to open things up."

"You cannot fight the problems of yesterday only with the tools of yesterday," he added. "You need the tools of today."

The mayor outlined six basic principles of the playbook: to be welcoming to New Yorkers of all backgrounds; to provide easy-to-navigate digital tools; to garner and listen to feedback from citizens; to reach people through channels they already use; to keep personal data secure; and to share public data and platforms to improve experiences across different city agencies.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Huffington Post Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington at an event Monday at the Civic Hall tec
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Huffington Post Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington at an event Monday at the Civic Hall tech center.

"Our goal is to make our services more accessible, make our operations more transparent, and make it easy and fun to participate in government," de Blasio wrote in a blog post published on Medium. "In short  —  we aim to make New York the most user-friendly and innovative city in the world."

The launch comes amid a burgeoning movement among urban advocates and mayors to better use tech-enabled cities as policy laboratories. Bloomberg Philanthropies, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's charitable arm, has recently expanded its What Works Cities initiative to exchange more ideas between forward-thinking city officials around the world. 

"It will take time. Any shift from a status quo is not easy," Michele Jolin, chief executive of the nonprofit Results for America and former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, wrote in a blog post last month for HuffPost. "But, using data and evidence will help city leaders make smarter, more effective decisions and improve lives for city residents."

The announcement comes at a critical point for de Blasio. The left-leaning mayor, who made income and housing inequality core components of his political platform, has been under intense scrutiny over campaign donations from real estate developers. A Marist Poll released last month found that the mayor's approval rating had fallen to 35 percent -- the lowest since he took office. 

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