Friday, June 8, 2012

Public Comment via Text Messaging

Perusing the Internet the other day, I came upon an article from the city of Philadelphia dealing with the use of text messages to solicit public input on new planning projects within the city. This means that the citizens of Philadelphia don’t actually need to attend public meetings in order to have input into the decision-making process. Obviously, attendance at the meetings has to be more persuasive, but you can get there, perhaps a text message is almost as good.

The article allows the public to submit ideas and feedback to the planners about local initiatives. It seems that most of these are in the form of surveys, and a number corresponding to the response to the survey is texted and the responses tabulated.

I’m not sure how effective this would be in the context of a contested case being heard by the planning commission, but these types of responses might very well be useful when trying to develop policy initiatives and to get a better understanding of how certain spaces might be used in particular areas of the city. In particular, Philadelphia is using it to get feedback concerning the continuing development of its 2035 Comprehensive Plan.

Obviously, text messaging seems to lower the barriers to public participation. Think of the limited numbers of people who ordinarily are involved in charrettes; with the use of this technology, many more citizens could have a say in the overall vision for the future of the city.

In any event, I’m sure that we’ll be seeing other examples of the use of this technology as time moves along.

The original article may be found here.

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