Red Tape, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from Theen …’s photostream

In many ways, our local government is stuck in the 20th century. You still have to come Downtown in person to get even the simplest permit. You still have to pay via check or money order. You still have to go to as many as three different government offices to obtain approvals, fill out applications, and pay fees. If we want people to want to live in Pittsburgh or to open a business or to renovate a house, we have to make these basic facts of government administration much more user friendly.

1. Government to Go

One way to ease the burden and cut some of the red tape of local government is to bring government to the people. Much like a food truck that brings home cooked food right to your neighborhood, we should operate a mobile government truck that serves as a satellite office where you can obtain a permit, apply for a zoning approval, file for dog license, and complete other tasks that should be simple. Boston has recently experimented with mobile government services and it has been a big hit with residents.

The Government to Go truck should rotate locations all over Pittsburgh to make sure that all residents have access to government services without having to travel downtown.

2.  GovGuide

Have you ever wondered if you need a building permit to install a fence in your yard or if you need approval from the Parking Authority to put a construction dumpster in front of your home? Good luck finding an easy answer on the City’s website. We should create a simple interface on the homepage of PittsburghPA.gov to allow anyone to ask a question and receive a simple, easy to understand answer complete with the links they need to find more information or take the next steps in a process. A permit guide should be designed to ask an applicant the pertinent questions and then direct them to the exact permit application they will need to fill out. A zoning code guide should be designed to allow a prospective developer to quickly and easily determine the zoning regulations applicable to their property.

Government doesn’t have to be a headache and if we can relieve some of that pain through common-sense, user-friendly design we can attract more residents and see more business development.