Thursday, 20 March 2014 00:00
One of the most important responsibilities an elected official has is to provide an open and transparent government for constituents. I have been committed to government transparency throughout my 23-year career in public service. Transparency can be achieved in a variety of ways, but it always involves access to governmental proceedings and decision-making, as well as opportunities for meaningful community input. During my first two months in office, I have held community meetings and extensive public hearings on various issues important to our residents. Building on that, we can take the next step by embracing new technological resources to open a wider pathway to exchange information between government and residents. In the Town of North Hempstead, I have already introduced several new technological initiatives to help achieve that very goal.
The advent of smartphones in recent years has changed the way that people receive information. From taking photos, to sending emails, and accessing the Internet from anywhere in the world, you can accomplish practically anything on a smartphone. Previously, smartphone features did not enable residents to access the wide array of government services available to them in the Town of North Hempstead. We had the novel idea of marrying the capabilities of a smartphone with the resources of our 311 Call Center.
North Hempstead’s 311 Call Center is open seven days a week and answered 171,000 calls from residents last year on a wide variety of topics. Whether you want to report a pothole or a broken street light, or find out information on the latest Town events, 311 can help you do that. Now, with the “My North Hempstead” mobile app, available in the iTunes and Android app stores, residents can take a photo of a pothole or non-functioning streetlight and submit it to 311, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The GPS coordinates of where the photo is taken will be tracked so the department that needs to address the issue knows exactly where to go to fix the problem. Other features of the app include syncing your garbage and recycling schedules to your phone’s calendar, and finding out the latest news from the Town.
On Feb. 25, we introduced another program geared toward making government more accessible to residents. We became the first town in Nassau County to stream Town Board meetings live on our website. Often times, residents are unable to leave their homes for a variety of reasons and cannot attend a Town Board meeting. Now, r residents who are not able to make it to Town Hall can still view our Town Board meetings on their smartphones, tablets or computer screens. This is something that was done when I was a County Legislator, and I wanted to bring this to the Town of North Hempstead.
The information superhighway is one of the primary ways that people receive information. The best way for us to provide pertinent news about the Town is through our comprehensive Town website www.northhempsteadny.gov. We have re-designed the homepage to link directly to items that are important to residents, such as the live streaming and our mobile app. One of the concerns many residents have communicated to me is their inability to find the forms they need online for various Town departments, including the Building Department. Now, you can just click on the “Online Forms” button on the home page of the Town website and you can access and print the forms from your home computer. The next phase of this process will allow for residents to track their applications online, which I expect to have in place later this year.
We are also working to overhaul the Parks and Recreation portion of our website to allow residents to search for the park they want to visit based on the activity in which they want to engage, or their location. Integrated with that will be a new online registration component that will allow residents to view all of the activities, classes and lessons available and sign up online without leaving their home. One of our crown jewels in North Hempstead is our beautiful parks system, and I believe that this new tool will make it easier for our residents to take advantage of it.