Guest Commentary

As KC mayor, I would increase transparency with new technology

Kansas City mayoral candidate and City Council member Jermaine Reed
Kansas City mayoral candidate and City Council member Jermaine Reed

“Fix the potholes!” Kansas Citians have shared those three words with me at every mayoral event this campaign season.

Navigating around potholes (if we are so lucky) on our way to work, taking our kids to school, or running errands can be stress-inducing, costly and dangerous. Recently, I had to get my car realigned because of an encounter with a pothole that could have been mistaken for a crater.

Winter is peak season for street problems, and this past winter was particularly challenging. A combination of very low temperatures, increased moisture and deferred maintenance led to an increase in the number of potholes. At the height of winter, there were 1,426 open pothole cases in the 6,000 lane miles our public works department is charged with maintaining. About 22 percent — $3.2 million — of our road construction budget is used to deploy 10-12 crews on a daily basis to repair potholes. With a more efficient way to identify and repair them, Kansas City would be able to decrease spending on potholes and allocate money elsewhere.

The takeaway from this issue is that people want their local government to work for them in an efficient and transparent way. With respect to potholes, one way to be more effective and transparent is by implementing technology to track areas where potholes are particularly rampant, allowing the city to use its resources more effectively and efficiently. Cities such as Chicago, Houston and Omaha, Nebraska, use mobile apps to help residents easily report problems, thereby assisting public works departments to prioritize where work crews should be sent. Allowing technology to assist residents in reporting potholes would benefit the city by providing data quickly about where problems are most prevalent.

The use of technology need not be limited to potholes. People should be able to make everyday requests of the city with computers and smartphones. Our outdated system needs to be updated. Buying fishing licenses, checking bus and streetcar schedules, paying local taxes or parking tickets, reporting city services issues, accessing government schedules, checking the wait line at the DMV and getting emergency alerts are all examples of essential services that could be streamlined.

Since I was first elected to serve on the City Council nearly a decade ago, we have made strides in expanding our technological footprint. Now that I am running for mayor, I have made the case to voters that we all will get more out of our local government if we have a leader who understands that we can reap many benefits and savings by bringing ourselves up to date. The private sector has long understood the great benefit of technology. As our city’s next mayor, I would move quickly to integrate a modern digital infrastructure into the city’s daily operations.

People want to know that their city is working for them in a transparent and efficient way. Whether it be potholes, damaged sidewalks, broken streetlights, paying taxes or a myriad of other daily services. As mayor, I would be committed to finding and implementing 21st-century solutions that put more control of city services in the hands of our residents.

Jermaine Reed represents the 3rd District on the Kansas City Council. This is one of a series of columns by candidates for Kansas City mayor.