Access to Information & ‘Open Government’

Continuing on the theme of ‘Open Spaces’, CBRM should use the web and social media to deliver more open, transparent and engaging government. As part of a broader communications strategy, this might include:

  • crowd-sourcing input at key decision-making times, such as budget approval, in order to better identify community priorities;
  • cataloguing and showcasing the community’s assets — from recreation and infrastructure, to events and important dates, to wifi hotspots and bike lanes;
  • monitoring operating costs in municipal buildings and fleets, and tracking reduction efforts such as electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions;
  • automating the system for identifying, prioritizing, and handling infrastructure improvements, such as roads, sewers, sidewalks;
  • and improving access to information, especially that which is readily digitized and made searchable, such as transit schedules or government contracts.

Canadian municipalities, both small and large, are adopting the Open Data concept1 — which equates access to information with good governance. The result is that government is more accountable, and citizens are empowered to come up with creative uses for the data.

1 How Canada became an open data and data journalism powerhouse

Sustainable Transportation & ‘Open Streets’

I’m attending a 2-day workshop in Halifax to support the development of the forthcoming “Provincial Sustainable Transportation Strategy”.

Municipalities across North America are coping with rapid economic, cultural and technological change. Those that are successful are the ones that treat these changes as opportunities for revitalization. Many cities and towns start in their downtown core, by creating more welcoming, vibrant, and inclusive public spaces.

As a web designer, I create “virtual open spaces” where people can come together and organize for social change. And in my volunteer work, I’m drawn to opportunities to create physical open spaces where people can share in, and co-create, the life of the community. I hope to bring my passion for ‘open spaces’ to municipal politics.

This might include, for example, transforming downtown Sydney (one day a year, or even one day a month) into a pedestrian-friendly centre of activity — by diverting motorized vehicles from Charlotte Street, and opening it up for people to walk, roll, stroll, play, shop and eat.

By encouraging shopkeepers and restaurateurs to have a presence on the sidewalk, and filling the streets with a diversity of activity (art, live music, community theatre, bicycle maintenance workshops, skateboard demonstrations, outdoor exercise classes, kids activities), organizers would create a ‘street scape’ that integrates active transportation, shopping, food, arts, and socializing.

Creating a walkable downtown core — connecting downtown Charlotte Street, North End Heritage Conservation District, Sydney boardwalk, Wentworth Park, Membertou and the GreenLink trail system — would promote density, diversity, and discovery and give tourists the integrated small-town experience they expect, while giving locals plenty of ways to connect (or re-connect) with their community.

To be continued…