Northeast Times

iPhone your councilperson

City Coun­cil­man Bobby Hen­on (D-6th dist.) will un­veil a new iPhone app - cre­ated at no cost to tax­pay­ers - that will al­low users to re­port qual­ity of life is­sues to City Hall.

Newly elec­ted City Coun­cil­man Bobby Hen­on (D-6th cist.) might just be the most tech­no­lo­gic­ally savvy politi­cian in the city.

It’s a role the coun­cil­man found him­self seem­ingly thrust in­to after his Web site’s serv­ers crashed when his “Bad Neigh­bor Ini­ti­at­ive” — a cam­paign to help fight blight throughout his dis­trict that got na­tion­al at­ten­tion on the In­ter­net earli­er this year — was picked up by news ag­greg­at­or sites, like Ya­hoo.com.

He’s also cre­ated a “Bad Neigh­bor Map” — on his Web site www.bobby­hen­on.com — that shows prob­lem prop­er­ties throughout his dis­trict and the im­pact they make on the prop­erty val­ues of homes in the com­munity.

This week, Hen­on will ex­pand his of­fice’s In­ter­net out­reach with The City­Hall App, an iPhone ap­plic­a­tion that will link his con­stitu­ents dir­ectly to his of­fice.

It’s an app his of­fice has cre­ated at no cost to tax­pay­ers.

“They (con­stitu­ents) don’t feel con­nec­ted to their elec­ted of­fi­cials any­more,” Hen­on said dur­ing an in­ter­view in his City Hall of­fice.

The app, he said, is a new at­tempt to con­nect his of­fice to every­one (at least, every iPhone user, though an An­droid app is also planned) in his Coun­cil dis­trict, which starts around Al­legheny Av­en­ue and ex­pands in­to the North­east, in­clud­ing much of Port Rich­mond and all of Brides­burg.

Hen­on said the app should launch this week – as the Star went to press, it was un­der re­view by Apple – and will al­low users to con­tact Hen­on’s of­fice with prob­lems they find throughout the com­munity.

As the only Coun­cil mem­ber with his own app, Hen­on said, he wants the pro­gram to help re­con­nect City Hall with the people of Phil­adelphia.

“I want them to say, ‘This of­fi­cial is there for us,’” said Hen­on.

What the app will of­fer is a simple, in­tu­it­ive meth­od for shar­ing neigh­bor­hood con­cerns with the coun­cil­man’s of­fice.

With the app, any­one in Hen­on’s dis­trict — or even out­side of his dis­trict, since his of­fice will for­ward is­sues from oth­er dis­tricts to the ap­pro­pri­ate of­fice — can re­port a wide ar­ray of qual­ity of life is­sues.

Here’s how the app works: Once a user has the app, he can sub­mit a “new case” to Hen­on’s of­fice — the cases are sent dir­ectly to his six-mem­ber of­fice team that man­ages every case through a con­stitu­ent re­la­tions man­ager pro­gram.

Users can also look at the status of cases they already sent and dig through a list of cases re­cently handled by Hen­on’s of­fice.

With a new case, the app al­lows a user to take a photo of the is­sue — graf­fiti, a pothole, a blighted build­ing or any oth­er con­cern — then write a de­tailed de­scrip­tion of the prob­lem.

Us­ing the iPhone’s own GPS (glob­al po­s­i­tion­ing sys­tem), the user can tag the case with the ex­act loc­a­tion of the is­sue.

With­in seconds, the case will be logged in­to the con­stitu­ent staff mem­ber at Hen­on’s of­fice, where his team will work to re­solve the is­sue.

“To your lik­ing or not, the is­sue will be re­solved,” he said. “This will al­low us to give you a quick­er, more friendly re­sponse.”

All cases will be kept in a log on the app, so users can see what they have sub­mit­ted in the past. When an is­sue is re­solved, the user will get an alert and a de­tailed re­sponse to how the prob­lem was ad­dressed.

Users can even check a list of prob­lems oth­er users have sub­mit­ted on the app, to see if their is­sue was already sub­mit­ted by someone else.

What did a tool like this cost tax­pay­ers?

Not a dime, said Hen­on.

In­stead, he used money from his cam­paign fund — he wasn’t sure how much, be­cause billing wasn’t com­plete — and he will donate the pro­gram to the city for the use of all Coun­cil mem­bers who want it.

“This is what Bobby wanted to do. It’s all from scratch,” said Micah Mah­joubi­an, the coun­cil­man’s dir­ect­or of on­line me­dia, as he gave a demon­stra­tion of the app.

With­in in­stants, Mah­joubi­an could cre­ate a case on his iPhone and the is­sue would be re­ceived by the coun­cil­man’s of­fice through this app.

But even if the cases are sent at light­ning speed, just how quickly could users ex­pect a re­sponse from his of­fice?

Hen­on wasn’t sure.

The of­fice will not be­come a 24/7 shop just to sup­port the app, but his team is ready for the ad­ded work­load and they’re look­ing for­ward to hear­ing about con­cerns that users share on the app, he said.

“City Hall at your fin­ger­tips, that’s the catch­phrase,” said Hen­on. “We are go­ing to be fully pre­pared for this…you will get a re­sponse from someone in my of­fice.”

Along with the sub­mis­sion abil­it­ies, the app is also con­nec­ted to Face­book and Twit­ter so you can gloat to your on­line friends about how you were helped per­son­ally by Hen­on’s staff.

There’s also a “call but­ton” on the app that will in­stantly call Hen­on’s of­fice, if a user would per­son­ally like to per­son­ally dis­cuss an is­sue. ••

The City­Hall app should be avail­able on the iTunes app store this week.

Star man­aging ed­it­or Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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