This week the City Council will be putting the finishing touches on the permit streamlining program I first suggested in 1995 when I was on the Planning Commission. While I’ve been as frustrated as many of you at the slow pace of implementation, there has been one advantage: Improvements in technology now make on-line permitting a reality.
In December, on behalf of the city, I attended the National League of Cities 75th Annual Congress of Cities in Los Angeles. Over 4,000 mayors and councilmembers from across America attended and probably the hottest topic was the newest applications of technology to governing, called “comprehensive e-government.”
Advances in both hardware and software now allow for the use of computers and telecommunications technologies to make governing more efficient, effective and responsive. Online permitting is just one example and is already a reality in San Carlos, Calif. Other cities such as Kansas City, Mo., allow tax and fee payments (i.e. parking tickets) to be done online. Citizen input into the budgeting process and customer evaluation of city services is also underway in other cities. Webcasting of live city council meetings and special events (e.g. breaking disaster news) is yet another possibility now. And our Geographic Information System (GIS) has applications for almost every city program or service that involves geography, including land use planning, building roads, storm drains, economic development, and traffic management and safety.
Comprehensive e-government is a perfect fit for Malibu. The residents and businesspeople here are already extremely computer literate, well above the national average. Applications that can be done from your home or office computer will bring the city government directly to you, reducing car trips on PCH; creating a “e-paper” trail on city-citizen transactions (no more “he said/she said”); and bringing access to those citizens who don’t have the time or physical ability to visit City Hall in person.
The year 2000 will also mark the council’s adoption of a new cable television franchise in Malibu. In 1999, the city launched its own Government Access Channel 15, bringing you programming and information about your city government 24 hours a day. We also successfully challenged Falcon Cable’s Basic Rate increase before the FCC in Washington. This year our objectives in Telecommunications include premiering a new and expanded City Web Site; starting an upper tier (aka: channels 2-13) community/educational channel for Malibu to cablecast locally produced cable shows; and completing negotiations with the school district to jointly fund a fully equiped, shared-use cable TV studio at Malibu High School for use by the students during school hours and the community on evenings and weekends. Finally, the new franchise will have to incorporate the changes in technology that are merging phones, computers and cable television for the speedy transmission of voice, video and data.
It’s an exciting year ahead. By Jan. 1, 2001, if all goes as planned, the city of Malibu will be a leader in comprehensive e-government. The future is here and we’re ready.