In Miami Beach, a smartphone app will put city government in the hands of the people.
“City of Miami Beach e-Gov,” an Android and iOS app released this month, allows city residents to report concerns and code violations, leave voice messages for the mayor, and track the city’s trolleys in real-time.
The app is free to smartphone owners and cost the city $123,000.
Mayor Philip Levine said that people often don’t know who to call when they see something wrong — a pothole, a broken sign, or a light that’s out.
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“A lot of times people feel helpless when they see something,” Levine said. “What this app does is that you basically can take a photo, send it, and it goes directly to the department that has to handle it.”
In the app, users can drop a pin on a map exactly where they saw the issue, upload a picture, and write a description. Categories include “Abandoned Vehicle,” “Beach Maintenance,” and “Homeless Activity.”
Users can choose to make an account and have the city follow up with them on the issue, or submit it anonymously.
Levine said he has already received voice messages from residents through the app’s “Tell the Mayor” feature.
“This gives you great, complete feedback. Your ear is to the ground,” he said.
The app was developed by EMA Inc., a company based in Minnesota, along with City of Miami Beach engineers. Levine said this will allow the city to modify the app in-house when the city sees fit.
Miami Beach is one in a rising number of municipalities in Miami allowing residents to file complaints, report code violations, and access city services through their phones.
Last year, North Miami Beach rolled out “Fix it NMB” and according to officials, have received about 4,000 reports of issues and code violations since. The app cost North Miami Beach $7,000. Miami Beach had its application made especially for the city, while North Miami Beach adapted existing software.
“It has made it easier for citizens to report,” Patrick Rosiak said, IT manager for North Miami Beach.
“Miami Beach Report It,” another app rolled out by Miami Beach a few years ago to allow users to report problems is being phased out, Levine said.
“We have made the decision to scrap that app. Lack of functioning and functionally,” he said. “We want to modernize, and technify everything we do.”
After reading an early version of this report at MiamiHerald.com, the producer of the old app, CitySourced, took exception to the mayor’s criticisms. A spokesman for California-based CitySourced said his product was better integrated with Miami Beach’s computer system and cost only about $6,000 per year, or 1/20th of the cost of the new product.
A city spokeswoman said the city recently changed its computer systems, and the new app works better with the new systems.
Miami Herald staff writer Scott Andron contributed to this report. Follow the reporter on Twitter @MelhorL