Chapel Hill moves a step further toward open government with Participate Chapel Hill

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Ruby Sinreich's picture

Participate Chapel Hill

I'm certainly glad to see the Town clearly state their committment to "transparency, collaboration, and providing citizens with improved access to local government information [and] data." It's a good start to have this on the record as a goal.So, the Town has created this web page that collects existing links of interest related to data and participation. It has four parts: 

  1. Local geographic data (maps and GIS).
  2. A long list of online "resources" including online permit and license applications, town financial information, demographic data, crime reports, and Chapel Hill 2020 (which was not exactly a shining example of open government, in my opinion).  Some of these are very informational, but some are just links to programs like Voter-Owned Elections, the town ordinances.
  3. Web and mobile apps such as adverse weather and development activity maps (both are pretty cool), and TTA's Transloc service.
  4. Various ways to contact the town, follow them by e-mail or social media, and apply to be on boards. It's nice that they link to Triangle Wiki's anemic Chapel Hill page in this section, but odd that they don't list any other sources of local information.

Has anyone else looked at this? I'd really like to know if the Town is actively working on this stuff, or just trying to make sure we know what they're already doing. It was ambitious of them to reference Raleigh's work on open government in their e-mail announcement of this page (which I'm pasting below for context).

The Town of Chapel Hill is launching "Participate Chapel Hill," an effort to make local government data easier to access and to make new opportunities for the public to share ideas and information through http://www.townofchapelhill.org/participate This initiative is designed to make it easier to get information and interact with Town government. As stated in the Council adopted Communication Strategy, Chapel Hill is committed to transparency, collaboration, and providing citizens with improved access to local government information, data, as well as ways to participate in making our community better."We want to know what information and data is most valuable to our residents so we can prioritize our efforts," Town Manager Roger Stancil said. "What we have on the website today responds to commonly requested information, but we know there are gaps. Participate Chapel Hill will fill those gaps and make more data freely available to everyone to use and republish as they wish." Participate Chapel Hill includes an open data component similar to programs being tested in many innovative cities, including the City of Raleigh. The open data effort ties in with the implementation of the Chapel Hill 2020 Plan, which highlights the Town's interest in more open, accessible, easily searchable and standardized data. In addition to data and information, the Town Council continues its commitment to deploy technology to increase public awareness of and participation in Town decisions. Chapel Hill has a suite of social media channels available at www.townofchapelhill.org/socialmedia and is currently exploring new tools to encourage civic engagement and two-way communication. The project is in its early beginning phase. Public input is encouraged. The Town is seeking out new information tools and resources to respond to public interest and demands for information. Are you eager to use a specific application that uses Town data? Are you looking for something that is not here? Share your ideas! Reach us at info@townofchapelhill.org