6-22-10 Roof Truss Set 2, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from Best Practices Research Alliance’s photostream

You can do virtually everything online in this day and age. From purchasing airplane tickets to depositing checks and everything in between, many services are migrating to the computer. I want to bring Pittsburgh into the digital age and allow citizens to access many city services and carry out many official functions online. This is particularly important when it comes to permitting related to the Department of Public Works or Building Inspection for home renovations, new construction, or sidewalk repairs, for example. I want to make it easier to invest in our neighborhoods by streamlining the application process, letting people apply for these permits online, and allowing payment via credit and debit card and wire transfer. There is no reason that one should have to go downtown and visit three different government offices with three different cashiers checks in order to obtain one simple permit. We can make government more user friendly just by bringing some common technology to bear on the process.

1. Online Permitting

In 2008, an audit of the Bureau of Building Inspection recommended digitizing the permitting process. While some forms are available online, you are still required to submit them at the permitting desk. I want to move applications online so that contractors and developers don’t need to take time out of their work to go downtown. Record keeping could also move online so that we can track permits by address and name, and keep contractors up to date with permit statuses. With more permitting being done online, we will be able to schedule inspectors more effectively and keep the redevelopment of our communities moving in the right direction. Not only will a switch to digital permitting make it easier to do work in our city and invest in our neighborhoods, it will make it easier for us to track what is being done, where it is being done, and who is doing it.

2. Making Permitting Mobile

Not only do we need to get permitting into the digital age, we have to be able to take it with us. Mobile technology will make permitting go smoother for both the city and contractors working in the field. In Roanoke, Va., New York City, and many other cities, building permits have QR codes on them so that inspectors can quickly pull up information about the permit and the location on their cell phones. This saves the need to carry information with them. With some very inexpensive investments in new technology and a change in the way we think about city government, we can vastly increase the efficiency of our permitting process.