Mapping Social Media Posts

Mapping Social Media Posts through ArcGIS Online

Many local governments use a variety of ESRI products for planning, land use development, and public safety. There is now an option to transform citizens user experience to allow for social media posts to be mapped in real time on community maps through ArcGIS online. The potential uses for this technology platform range from local governments being able to create heat maps based on key words, to directly interacting with citizens through retweeting or responding to tweets and other social media posts. This tool was used by various emergency management agencies during Hurricane Matthew to see the types of conditions that citizens were seeing on the ground as the storm was passing through. This tool is beneficial to local governments because most local governments already have access to ArcGIS Online and can therefore implement this concept without incurring any additional costs other than maintenance and oversight of the service.

Balancing Act

Name: Balancing Act

Website Link:

Balancing Act is an online tool that allows citizens to play an active role in balancing their local municipalities budget by working through a simulated budget process. The feedback from citizen input is directly implemented into the local government decision-making processes. There is a lot of potential with this type of process because it allows citizens to reflect on what services are important to them while also gaining an appreciation for the difficult tasks that local government staff face each year during the budget development process. Another benefit of this program is that it can be used by citizens who might not be able to attend a budget meeting or who might not feel comfortable openly offering their feedback on the budget. There is also an option for the program to be used in an in-person budget meeting allowing participants who are not as familiar with using computers to still participate in the budget development process.


If you’re looking for an inexpensive online design tool, you may want to check out Lucidpress. I am probably one of the least creative people in my field so I’ve learned to use whatever help I can get.

Lucidpress offers the capabilities to design for both print and online content and includes templates from which to build. I’ve done an economic development tool with their ebook template for my county manager, annual reports, online newsletters, presentations, and flyers. The program is flexible, and the support is fantastic. If you have questions, all you have to do is fill out a short form, and they will contact you by phone or email pretty quickly. While some design programs are limited, Lucidpress allows the user a lot of freedom which helps to create unique content. It even has the capability to track how many times an online publication is opened. The price is reasonable with a year’s subscription only $155.40 for access to their Pro account.

There is a free trial so if you’re interested or in need of an easy tool to help with design, check it out!

More Delays to Clean Water Access in Flint

Flint’s task of rectifying the negative impacts stemming from its water contamination crisis continues to leave the city’s citizens desperate for solutions. On top of that, they have become increasingly aware of how little information they receive about why Flint’s elected officials make certain decisions.

This feeling is especially salient in the face of recent news from Flint Mayor Karen Weaver that citizens should expect it will be another two years before Flint can produce its own clean water. Luckily, Flint residents have a better chance of getting what they want thanks to federal requirements from the EPA that require the city to involve citizens in the process of deciding the city’s primary and back-up water sources. Tactics to date include community conversations, mailings, press releases, publication distribution, and presentations at state and city committee meetings.

Notably, its pending community engagement strategy is to gather cost and technical feasibility details from potential providers and then facilitate public participation. Specifically, residents will be encouraged to share their opinions on the alternatives being considered – they do this either by attending a town hall meeting, by email, or in writing.

It remains to be seen how many citizens take advantage of this opportunity to be part of the decision-making process. With nearly half of Flint households lacking access to internet, one can surmise that neither email nor town hall participation are likely to host significant attendance. Nevertheless, this community engagement example demonstrates not only the value of gaining resident buy-in at the outset of a public administration decision, but it also shows the power federal agencies can have in requiring participation when local governments fail to make decisions that are in the interest of their citizens.

EngagingPlans – Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission

One way to encourage citizen involvement in the strategic planning process is to provide an interactive platform that encourages feedback in decision-making.

Advancing the Alleghenies is the Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission’s (SAPDC) Urban Interactive Studio used to engage the community with an interactive strategic plan. SAPDC is a public/private partnership in Pennsylvania that seeks to develop a comprehensive economic development strategy for the Southern Allegheny region. In 2014, the group launched “Advancing the Alleghenies” to achieve its goal of increasing public outreach and collaboration – engagement key to the strategic planning process and its ultimate success.

Through the “Engaging Plans” platform from Urban Interactive Studio, the partnership was able to have a one-stop shop for project communications, hosting documents, events, news and FAQs, at an undisclosed monthly subscription fee. The platform gives community members a voice and the partnership is able to collect feedback via discussions, surveys, and an idea wall. The Advancing Alleghenies site hosts strategic planning documents for each city in the region for residents to reference, and has interactives maps for users to explore including population change, legislative districts, transportation improvement programs, and census boundaries. The most interaction the site provides includes an “Issues and Opportunities” tab where users are asked for their perspective on opportunities, assets, and issues of the region, and can rank listed items by dragging them to arrange each item in order of importance. The strategic plan on the site hasn’t been updated since the 2014, likely indicative of the SAPDC’s discontinued use of the platform.

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Next-generation Crime Fighting is Only a Swipe Away

The City of Fishers, Indiana is battling crime through enhanced community engagement. It’s secret is no further than your pocket…

By Thomas Mirc

There are an estimated 4.77 billion mobile phones in the hands of users worldwide right now. That’s one for every adult on Earth. As the number of people with mobile phones grows, funds available for municipal policing continue to decline, nationwide. Recognizing that the community would have to be an integral part of crime fighting in the future, The US Department of Justice launched Community Oriented Policing Services in 1994.

The City of Fishers, Indiana, a northwest suburb of Indianapolis, has grown from a hamlet of 628 people in 1970, to over 76,000 residents today. Boasting population growth rates of 220%, 270%, 404%, and 103% over the past four decades, the city has had to repeatedly turn to innovation to solve its budgetary challenges.

Typically, population growth can mean increased crime. But in Fishers, crime has been well managed through the rapid influx of new residents. Fishers was named the safest town in America in 2012 and 2013.  

Recognizing a need to leverage the power of the community to stay ahead of crime, the City of Fishers Police Department launched an innovative program in 2016.

CrimeWatch is a mobile application, developed by the application developer Auri’s Ideas for the City of Fishers. The application can be downloaded by any resident to an iOS or Android smartphone. Within 5 minutes, a user creates an account and becomes an extension of Fishers’ police force.

The application enables residents to report suspicious activity through the app directly to officers on patrol. The user can enhance their crime reports through photographs and geolocation data. The department intended for the application to get people who typically wouldn’t call 911 to interact with the police. It’s done that and more.  With over 3,700 users who filed a report in 2016, Fishers app has resulted in several arrests, and is indirectly improving the quality of life of 76,000 residents.

While there are many examples of mobile applications focused on reporting crime, Fishers’ app has a different twist that makes it particularly effective. Data from all inbound reports are tracked in the application’s database. This gives users a real time view of what’s happening in their community. But to promote maximum transparency, the app provides code to any user who wants to imbed Fishers’ crime data into their neighborhood website. Users from homeowners associations can then use the app’s code to display crime maps and reports specific to their neighborhood on their neighborhood website or through other applications like NextDoor.

The application achieves three goals 1) community engagement to aid in improving the quality of a public service offering (co-production), 2) improved government transparency through data sharing, and 3) improved communications through community-based publishing.

The application is unique to other crime-fighting applications, in that it is not anonymous, and it routes reports to officers on-duty. The combination of these two factors ensure that community reports are responded to and don’t fall into a backlog.

Many in the Indianapolis region have noted how Fishers’ CrimeWatch app is having a big effect on community engagement. By leveraging the power of technology and the engagement of Fishers residents, Fishers has substantially augmented its police force without substantially increasing its police spending. Fishers’ CrimeWatch program is likely to become a model for other communities looking to innovate at low cost amidst an inevitable future of declining municipal budgets.  

Learn More:

To find out more about Fishers, Indiana’s CrimeWatch App, visit:


Fox News 59, Indianapolis, Indiana, January 3, 2017 “Fishers Police Department Urging Other Hamilton County Agencies to Utilize Crime Watch App:

CQ Press, Safest Towns in America Rankings, 2013

SurveyMonkey – Surveys in Clark County, Washington

Jurisdiction: Clark County, Washington

People Directly Impacted: 1,550 employees

People Indirectly Impacted: 443,817 citizens

Technology: SurveyMonkey: SurveyMonkey is an only survey tool. At $300 per year for membership, it is an extremely economical way to reach citizens. There are more powerful branches of SurveyMonkey, such as SurveyMonkey CX and SurveyMonkey Enterprise, but these tools are more powerful than necessary and require increased fees. It offers branding, so the survey will look legitimate to citizens, and it allows for unlimited responses to each survey. Respondents may choose to remain anonymous if the survey is built without requiring identifying information. SurveyMonkey includes reporting tools that aggregate data for analysis in Excel or SPSS, a statistical analysis software. It is also a secure site, so the city can trust SurveyMonkey with customer/citizen information.Technology:

Tech Use: Employee Surveys – Employee surveys were used to get to the root of an employee morale issue. Employees had issues with procedural fairness, were likely to quit, and had other systemic issues. The scale for measurement was 1 (low) to 7 (high). The mean response in 2014 was 4.83. A consultant was hired to intervene at pain points identified in the survey and created solutions to reverses the negative course of employee opinion. The largest finding was a need for servant leadership, or a greater focus on employees versus the initial focus on politics and top-down leadership.

Innovative Component: The innovation found in this is example is the County Manager seeing a morale issue and taking real action to identify its causes and make a change. Organizational change is incredible difficult to manage and sustain, so the manager’s commitment to this initiative is admirable and shows commitment to his county’s employees.

Community Engagement: Internal community engagement is direct in this case through surveys and direct interventions. External community engagement is indirect in this case, but it is logical to assume that a happier workforce provides better service to its community.


Thomas, Jake. “Clark County, Wash., IT Department and Example of How Officials Hope to Boost Employee Morale.” Last modified February 28, 2017.