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Oct 22 / Kimberly

George Smitherman – Open Government – Using Open Data to Make City Hall More Transparent

Wow, lots of Open Data news today! Here’s George’s platform on Open Data – the only candidate to even *mention* open data.

George Smitherman – Open Government – Using Open Data to Make City Hall More Transparent.

This election has highlighted the fact that many Torontonians feel disconnected from City Hall. For some, the issue is about spending tax dollars, while for others it is about decisions being made without sufficient engagement of residents who are most affected by what City Hall does.

A lack of transparency at City Hall is the common element, and the fact that the City’s bureaucracy has grown large and unresponsive.  It’s not a left/right issue – it’s about having a local government that enables the creativity of citizens rather than trying to control the outcomes.  A City Hall where staff are accountable, and proud to work for the people of Toronto, directly.

Mayoral candidate George Smitherman wants to take action on transparency and local democracy.

He has promised to establish a new ‘community centred’ planning process, with storefront planning offices designed to engage local neighbourhoods in planning their own future.  He wants to reform City Council as well, and is considering setting up neighbourhood councils to bring residents right into the process of making public decisions on budgeting, parks and public spaces, and core services.

He is also the only major candidate who has shown a real grasp of the potential for Web 2.0, Open Data and Open Source techniques to improve city services, create jobs, and generate new solutions to old problems.

George believes that the information the City holds should be publicly released in machine-readable data formats that can be used and reused by anyone (except for specific, narrow privacy and public security exceptions).  A Smitherman administration would accelerate the release of municipal data by mandating the release of publicly-owned data by City departments, agencies, boards and commissions.

And if he becomes the new Mayor, he wants to model the use of open government by undertaking a very public budget review in his first 100 days in office, on the web and on television and backed by Open Data access for all to the city’s budget numbers.  Opening the whole process up, and ensuring the data is available in machine-readable formats, will bring new ideas to the fore and help to resolve difficult budget choices.

This review will, it is hoped, be the template for further and better engagements with citizens on key issues.

In addition, a Smitherman administration would look into the utilization of mobile technology and open standards to enable citizens to report and resolve issues in their neighbourhoods – from potholes, road construction, to graffiti – using a mobile device.  Members of Smitherman’s team are studying initiatives in the US (including CitStat and seeclickfix), and looking forward to developing these ideas in collaboration with the digital community here in Toronto after George is elected Mayor.

The emerging businesses and commercial opportunities around digital/mobile technology in Toronto need recognition by a Mayor whose championship will attract talent and capital, connect entrepreneurs with government and traditional business leaders, and stabilize their own partnerships around core opportunities in the arts, city building, education, public services, and commerce.

George Smitherman wants to be that Champion.

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