It’s probably an overgeneralization, but we have said repeatedly that government needs to do a better job of being responsive and transparent to the people it serves.
It should be a bit obvious to have to say it but elected officials work for us, not the other way around. Granting greater public access to meetings and documents and otherwise doing a better job of listening to the concerns from the constituents it represents should be government’s default setting.
Sadly, that’s not always the case. So when we see a situation where local government has found a creative and effective way to encourage feedback from the community, we’re going to heap on the praise.
And that’s exactly what Frederick is doing with an interactive map on the city’s website.
The map, found by clicking the comprehensive plan banner at cityoffrederick.com, allows users to select a spot on the map and leave an anonymous comment about something at that location for city officials to consider. The comments are visible for everyone as well.
The use of the map was initially established to help the city get feedback as part of the 2020 comprehensive plan discussions. But the application can be something that lasts beyond that discussion.
Since the map went live in late August, it has created a forum where specific and detailed messages about a perceived problem in the city go directly to the mayor and his staff. Already, there seem to be dozens of suggestions on the map.
Some of the suggestions are the kinds of ideas the city could address immediately, such as adding four-way stop signs at various intersections downtown or add a crosswalk at West Second Street and Memorial Parkway. Other suggestions are a bit more complicated or expensive to pull off, such as the commenter who suggested that the city get rid of overhead power lines to eliminate the visual clutter.
Of course, then there are other comments that just make you smile, like the two that ask the city to do its best to entice a Starbucks and Cracker Barrel to locate near the Fort Detrick Fire Department. And as funny as those suggestions might sound, they can even give city officials some insight into what the public is thinking.
Last week, Mayor Michael O’Connor told us just that, in a conversation about several of the comments. O’Connor found ways to even make suggestions that are outside of the city’s purview relevant to the plan for the city’s future.
O’Connor also reminded us that the iSpires phone app is another way anything from potholes to burned-out streetlights to stormwater matters can be instantly sent to the city. Yet another good way to get the city’s attention.
The use of an interactive map and phone app to gather community input is hardly unique. Dozens of other jurisdictions across the country do the same thing.
But there’s no crime in recycling a good idea. And we think this could be just the thing to leave no stone unturned when it comes to moving Frederick forward.
So now that the city has provided a mechanism to offer ideas, we hope the residents and stakeholders take full advantage.