From our neighbors to the south in Everett comes an idea that could make life easier for residents of all of our communities — and pave the way for greater participation in local government by all citizens.
Later this month, the city of 46,000 will unveil a program that would let people appeal their parking tickets remotely.
“Any function that you have to come to City Hall to do, our goal is to make sure you can do it all online,” Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria told State House News Service on Wednesday. “This is easier. Hearing officers see the residents, they plead their case, and a decision is made.”
The process is fairly simple. If a driver wants to dispute a ticket, they can go to the city’s website and schedule a remote hearing. At the appointed time, the hearing officer contacts the driver, and the hearing is held via FaceTime or Skype. A decision is later emailed to the person appealing the ticket.
It’s a deceptively simple approach that is nonetheless a great leap forward in municipal service. It saves residents the hours of time needed to attend a hearing in City Hall, making it more likely they will appeal a ticket they felt was issued in error. There’s no need to miss hours of work to fight a $25 fine.
Everett’s system isn’t limited to parking tickets. Residents and others will be able to appeal all manner of code enforcement violations.
Of course, there’s no guarantee such appeals will be successful. But Everett’s initiative is one of several aimed at using video conferencing to make lives easier for the public, which spends too much time in cars as it is.
The federal Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, is expected to launch a program later this year that would allow veterans to hold virtual meetings with the agency using their smartphone or laptop.
Such programs won’t entirely eliminate the need for face-to-face meetings, of course. But used wisely, they can make government more responsive to its citizens, whether it’s the federal government or a small town in Essex County. Here’s hoping communities in the Merrimack Valley and on the North Shore follow Everett’s lead.