Eureka!, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from rishibando’s photostream

Elected officials are representatives of their communities sent to make decisions on behalf of residents. However, we don’t always have all of the answers. Some answers come from community leaders, neighborhood activists, and city employees who are on the ground every day and see what needs to be done to improve our city. We must give them a voice to create change and have their ideas for a better Pittsburgh heard and implemented.

1. Tell Us Your Ideas

Local government needs an online suggestion box. Several cities around the country have experimented with online tools to allow residents to provide direct input into how the city works and it’s time for Pittsburgh to build our own model.

This tool wouldn’t serve as a way to air complaints or request city services. It would be a repository for the best ideas to improve local government. We want suggestions for creating new programs or services, ideas to save money and increase efficiency, and proposals for how to best spend taxpayers’ money on neighborhood improvements.

2.  Start a Conversation

This online suggestion box would not be a black hole.  We would create a team of staff members to review each suggestion and, if feasible, work with the resident who submitted the idea to see it become reality. This would create a conversation between residents and city officials about how to build a better Pittsburgh, a conversation that would enrich both sides.

The best ideas would rise to the top and be featured on the city’s website. Residents could vote on their favorite ideas. Those ideas can then be expanded through a collaborative process. These online tools could help build an iterative pathway for communities to present ideas together and help shepherd them to implementation.

3. Encourage City Employees to Push for Change

City employees know better than anyone how inefficient local government can often be. Any large organization has waste and inefficiency that can be hard to root out and local government is no exception. However, too often our city employees feel they can’t speak out when they see taxpayer money being wasted. This must change. My Mayor’s office will have an open door policy to all employee concerns and will welcome our workers when they come to us with suggestions for how to improve their departments.

We can no longer be afraid of change and we can no longer make our employees afraid to push for changefrom within.