Walking Through the Doors of City Hall

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City hall is a living metaphor for the way citizens and government exchange information. People visit their city hall to do everything from paying bills and signing marriage licenses to participating in city council meetings and registering businesses. Regardless of the political structure a municipal government might have or whether that government is a city, town, borough, or something else, the local seat of government is itself a hub of information. Understanding what goes on there is key to seeing how a municipality structures its data and shares information with the public — and hints at what the future of these exchanges will look like as these governments incorporate more technology into their daily operations and services.

The city hall of Takoma Park, Maryland, is one particularly active hub of citizen and government exchange. Here, city hall houses not only the city manager, city council meeting rooms, and administrative units of the local government, but also the police department, computer labs, and various public recreational facilities and classes. (Yoga, anyone?) Although some of these offline operations and data holdings are in the process of transitioning online (especially when it comes to making public meetings more accessible), Takoma Park is a picture of a local government at the crossroads between the old vision of open government — with its door literally open — and the new, which calls for open data, open processes, and digital services in real time.

Suzanne Ludlow, Takoma Park’s city manager sums it up in the video below: “How do you take a town that’s doing well, but then do the next step?”

As we continue our work on local open data, we wonder: How do you interact with your local government? Let us know by sharing a picture of your city hall on Twitter with the hashtag #opencity!

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