Planning & Zoning & Web 2.0

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    I thought it was great news when I read in the Baltimore Sun that Harford County Executive David R. Craig said in his State of the County address last week that he wanted to improve communications with citizens through a beefed up website. He was quoted as saying:

    “I realize limited notices in the local paper are not adequate when it comes to keeping Harford County’s diverse and evolving population informed and involved in their local government.”

    I thought wouldn’t this be a great way to put Web 2.0 to use? The county could post maps of upcoming developments using something like Atlas or Wikimapia on its site and we could subscribe to its RSS feeds that would send notices of development proposals to our feed readers or our e-mail inboxes as soon as they came to county’s attention. We wouldn’t have to remember to scan every development notice printed in newspapers to make sure we were informed. The notices would come give us an electronic tap on the shoulder. Then we could view them and details of the development plans online and leave feedback right there on the site — kind of the same way you would leave a comment on a blog. The county leaders could take these comments into consideration while reviewing the proposals. They could even set up a webcam at Development Advisory Committee meetings and interested citizens could watch from their laptops and e-mail in questions if they couldn’t be there.

    The county already allows you to view DAC agendas online. And they post minutes. But not terribly quickly. I’m still waiting for the minutes to the Feb. 21st meeting to show up. I wanted to see how things went for those development proposals I mapped on this blog a few weeks ago. It was so easy to map those sites and post them to this blog using Atlas, it’s almost a shame governments don’t do the same thing for all their developments. It would really open up the process. Plenty of businesses are mulling ways to use Web 2.0. But it seems even better suited for government, where giving the people the power to crowd-source was always the general idea.