BDN launches online service allowing constituents’ concerns to be heard

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Posted Oct. 05, 2011, at 1:33 p.m.
Bangor Public Works employees fill potholes in Bangor. Mainers can now report problems in their neighborhoods, such as potholes, on the BDN website.
Bangor Public Works employees fill potholes in Bangor. Mainers can now report problems in their neighborhoods, such as potholes, on the BDN website.

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine residents are now able to alert their municipal officials to nagging neighborhood problems, such as lingering potholes or blown street lights, through the Bangor Daily News website, thanks to a partnership launched this week between the newspaper and Connecticut-based company SeeClickFix.

On the BDN’s regional webpages for Aroostook County, Bangor and Portland, as well as on its statewide page, readers will be greeted with a map of the area and list of problems logged by fellow residents. Readers will be able to report new problems if they’re aware of something new that needs attention, or they can lend their support for a previously logged problem.

Designated municipal officials will be contacted through arrangements made by SeeClickFix to be made aware of the constituent alerts.

Municipal representatives are then invited to respond through the same BDN platform to inform constituents that they’re aware of the problems or that the problems have been fixed.

“We provide the tools for citizens to go ahead and make connections” with the appropriate municipal contacts, said Emma Richards of SeeClickFix. “We see everything from potholes to street lights to graffiti, and we’ve had people use us to make suggestions for better ways to use public space, with suggestions about how an area could use a park bench or be made into a community garden.”

Richards said the company is present in 17,000 communities around the world, and that the Bangor Daily News is the organization’s sole media partner in the state of Maine.

SeeClickFix Chief Executive Officer Ben Berkowitz said he spent summers in his youth on Little Cranberry Island and still has an uncle living in Bangor, and said he’s excited about the new partnership with the BDN.

Currently seen on the BDN website, problems have been logged in Portland by residents concerned about a nonfunctioning street light at the corner of Howard and Quebec streets. In Bangor, residents have weighed in with various traffic concerns, and in the Aroostook County region residents have requested tree-trimming and paving and reported a vacant home.

Portland spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said Maine’s largest city has a central contact page on its website for constituent complaints as well, but said the city welcomes any new way to stay informed of issues most important to its residents.

“We always welcome opportunities for the public to provide feedback to the city, and if this is another vehicle to inform the city, we welcome that,” she told the Bangor Daily News.

Richards said the new BDN program can be helpful for municipalities, because town and city officials will be able to gauge public priorities by how many constituents are logging alerts about one issue compared to another.

“The beauty of our platform is everything is open and publicly available,” Richards said. “Let’s say there’s that one pothole on Main Street that everybody hits on their way to work in the morning, other people can add comments about that or vote to fix it. If there are 20 or 30 people voting to fix that one pothole, and only two or three people logging concerns about another pothole around the corner, it’s pretty obvious to see which pothole people want fixed first and where resources are probably better spent.”

Richards also said the platform has been used by neighbors interested in helping other neighbors.

“There was one instance in which an old lady reported that somebody dumped garbage in her alley, and other SeeClickFix users came in and formed a group to help clean it up,” she said. “It’s always amazing to me to see how citizens come together and help each other fix problems.”

To see a full list of reported issues in the state or to submit your own, visit bangordailynews.com/browse/state/.

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