CH launches new mobile app to facilitate communication with residents
On June 16, the City of Cleveland Heights will launch a mobile app called Access Cleveland Heights for the Android and Apple smartphone platforms. The app is part of a broader technology initiative that has made budget, spending and police reports instantly available online.
The app, which was the brainchild of Tanisha Briley, city manager, is a $9,800 investment intended to facilitate communication between residents and the city through an extensive array of reporting services.
Using Access Cleveland Heights, residents can inform the city about a range of problems, including city park and property conditions, broken parking meters, trash collection issues, graffiti, potholes, private property conditions, tall grass and weeds, traffic signs, tree issues, vacant properties and water leaks.
“We’re always looking for new ways to engage our residents and allow for two-way communication,” said Briley. “We can’t see everything, and we can’t be everywhere, and we do depend on our residents to be our eyes and ears so that we can fix these issues that may be going overlooked.”
The app will also feature the city’s codified ordinances, a city directory, a city newsfeed, a municipal calendar, the city’s social media presence and an emergency notification system called Ready Notify.
“We just continue to look for ways to be more efficient and more effective,” Briley said. “I’m not interested in technology for technology’s sake, but if it helps us communicate better with residents, if it enhances services for residents, and if it helps us do our jobs better, then I think it’s a good investment.”
Briley said the city will promote the system through its magazine, Focus; its cable-access television channel, Time Warner Channel 20; postcard mailings and social media. She anticipates that, in its first year, the system will register around 500 reports, which can be submitted anonymously. Any residents who have difficulty understanding the app can seek help at a Cleveland Heights library.
Steve Barker, coordinator of CH's Division of Government Television, said that the app builds on the existing city response system to provide residents with the assurance that their concerns are being resolved.
“The need is to allow residents to more easily let the city know about problems and for the city to more easily address them,” said Barker. “If they see something, we think they should let us know.”
Barker said that the app could be very useful in bringing issues to the attention of the city more quickly, as in the hypothetical example of a resident who notices a pothole.
“A person sees something that they want to report, they go to the app, and they hit submit request,” he said. They can then take a picture of the pothole, then the phone would either automatically register their location or they would manually enter an address, followed by a brief description of the problem.
The picture would be uploaded and sent to CH City Hall, which would confirm receipt of the report, forward it to an appropriate official, and then dispatch agents to deal with the problem. Afterward, a final notification would be sent, informing the resident that the issue had been resolved.
The Access Cleveland Heights app mirrors similar efforts in Lakewood and Davenport, Iowa, where Briley helped to launch that city’s mobile app. She said that the new initiative positions Cleveland Heights as a leader among peer cities.
“I think that we’re never afraid to try things,” said Briley. “City apps aren’t common. I don’t think they’re very common in our region, and so we’re happy to be leaders on that front.”
“We’ll always be looking for ways to use technology to make us more effective and efficient,” Briley said. “It really, for me, is about improving communication and enhancing accessibility.”
Alastair Pearson, a Cleveland Heights resident, is a 2014 graduate of Saint Ignatius, where he edited the school newspaper and literary magazine. He is an intern at the Observer.