What: Open Data is being utilized across the nation to foster greater transparency and civic engagement. The days of unalterable ledgers are behind us. Citizens are demanding information that can be easily understood and provide clear data driven evidence for decisions. Furthermore, Open Data platforms encourage civic engagement by allowing citizens to collect and manipulate data to provide insight and potential solutions to issues facing the municipality.
Why: You should not have to be a CPA or bookkeeper to understand the monthly expense reports released by Town Hall? Open Data ensures real transparency by providing information every resident can understand. It also opens the doors of town government by giving residents the tools to engage in constructive dialogue about town issues. A leader doesn’t need to have all the answers but needs to know when they hear the right one.
How: Pragmatically this is the most cumbersome goal of the Slater Administration’s efforts to improve the functionality of our town government. Open Data capabilities and implementation strategies are constantly evolving. Tech companies and organizations such as the Sunlight Foundation provide frameworks and training opportunities to transform an obsolete town government into a data driven, accountable, collaborative and honest municipal leader.
What: Not every kid in Yorktown needs to go to college. There is a shortage of skilled trade workers nationwide meaning there is a demand for good paying jobs. According to a report by the Associated General Contractors of America 70% of construction contractors are having a hard time finding qualified skilled workers; in the Northeast the report showed that number at 63%. Yorktown can lead from the front and create a local pathway for interested students to pursue apprenticeship and career opportunities as a skilled trades member.
Why: The trades are strong right here in the Hudson Valley and especially Westchester County. Lakeland Central School District has brought interested students to the training facility used by Laborers Local 60 in Brewster. Statistics show a clear demand for the need to invest in creating a pathway to the trades.
How: Proactively establishing positive working relationships with our local school districts, employers and trades to provide unique opportunities would be the first step. Every year there is a Hudson Valley Construction Career Day hosted at Rockland Community College. In 2019 more than 800 students attended. Under the Slater Administration, Yorktown would work to host a similar, and annual event, to provide a unique educational opportunity to an important workforce.
What: It is common practice in municipalities across the region to provide a public State of the Town presentation to highlight municipal achievements and project a vision for the coming year. Past administrations implemented State of the Town addresses because they provide an additional opportunity to engage the public and project plans for the future of our town. To date, the current administration has yet to hold a State of the Town.
Why: Residents deserve to know both the current condition and plan for Yorktown. There are dozens of ways to properly communicate these things, but functionally, providing a State of the Town is the baseline method that should be utilized.
How: The Slater Administration would hold a State of the Town annually every March to provide a status report of the current condition of the town and proposed plan for the coming year. Additionally, legislation would be introduced to statutorily require a State of the Town to be given with in the first quarter of every year moving forward.
What: Bike sharing and micro-mobility options such as E-Scooters are becoming increasingly popular. Originating in urban settings bike sharing has begun to expand to Westchester communities such Yonkers, White Plains and New Rochelle. These programs have increased access to downtowns and mass transit options while being environmentally friendly and promoting healthy living.
Why: Yorktown has five established and unique hamlets. Bringing bike sharing and micro mobility options will increase accessibility through an affordable, environmentally friendly and healthy option. Additionally it would allow for expanded campaigns that highlight the many scenic trails in Yorktown such as the Yorktown Trailway and North County Trailway. Lastly, it would provide one way of closing any gaps in transportation equity that may exist.
How: It begins with establishing an exploratory committee to determine the viability and safety of a bike sharing and micro-mobility program. Companies such as P3GM and Lime are aggressively seeking new markets to expand to.
What: Progressive public sector organizations are recognizing the valuable information local governments collect and store. Investments are being made to improve the management of and use of this important data. Analytics can then be applied to identify issues, forecast needs and make sure the right decisions are being made by local officials.
Example: The City of Tallahassee utilizes an analytics platform to comb through information gathered by multiple systems including thousands of water meters of local homes and businesses. Previously, municipal workers would have to manually review consumption records to identify leaks. Now, analytics races through data and alerts officials of any potential signs of leaks which saves water and prevents exorbitant utility bills from finding their way into mailboxes.
Why: Tools that have been developed as part of the digital age are available to make town government more efficient, effective and proactive. Updating our data capabilities improves the decision making of municipal employees and provides a concrete foundation for why those decisions were made.
How: Yorktown needs to change the conversation. Rather than continue to advocate for traditional municipal employment investments, a conversation which has been ongoing for more than a decade, Yorktown should examine the value in hiring personnel who specialize in data management and determine the cost benefit analysis associated with having analytic specialists.
What: Yorktown’s citizen services are becoming obsolete. In a world that is constantly changing, revolutionizing and advancing, Yorktown is being left behind. We can’t even sign up our kids for town Parks & Recreation programs online! We need to fundamentally redefine how we communicate, deliver citizen services and make faster decisions based upon analytics and data. This starts by closing the innovation gap, giving our town employees modern tools to accomplish daily tasks and reorganize the workflow of town services to maximize output. Most importantly it relies on design thinking techniques that puts citizens, the real end users, at the table to make sure government understands their needs and is tackling them accordingly.
How: This is the real mission for the foreseeable future if we choose to accept it. Modern technology is constantly evolving and producing tools that make our dailys tasks easier, allow our local government to become proactive and ultimately less costly by tackling tomorrow’s problems today. Tech companies from IBM to Google are investing millions of dollars in research and development for local governments. It is time Yorktown becomes an active participant.
Why: It’s time Yorktown got with the times. We are continuing conversations that started, in some cases, 50 years ago! The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. If we really want a community that leads then we must start a new conversation focused on maximizing modern day tools to redefine how our government provides services and communicates with our citizens.
What: Local governments across the nation are beginning to understand the importance and potential of properly utilizing Blockchain Technology. What is blockchain? Blockchain technology is a byproduct of living in a digital world. It is a constantly evolving and secure network of data that is used to store electronic records, establish e-notaries and even collect taxes. The nation of Estonia has run their country electronically for more than a decade. Blockchain technology provides governmental infrastructure for a wide range of services from e-health records, automated electronic taxation, and even e-business registration.
How: There is real value being discovered by utilizing and mastering blockchain technology in the public sector. Properly using this data helps local governments become more proactive rather than reactive by using customer trends to predict needs. Places like South Burlington Vermont, with a population of 19,000, are being used as a case study to properly implement blockchain technology in the daily decision making of public administrators.
Why: Yorktown’s local government continues to have the same conversations and has attempted to tackle the same issues for decades. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is advancing itself in other areas leaving Yorktown in their dust. Utilizing Blockchain Technology will push Yorktown ahead of the curb, allow for a more proactive, efficient and effective local government that would be tackling the real issues of our local citizens. It is time we change the conversation and Blockchain Technology will allow for that.
What: One of the glaring deficiencies of our community is the lack of direct transportation into Manhattan. Commuters are forced to leave Yorktown for Metro North stations in Croton, Mt. Kisco, North White Plains and Peekskill. It is time to open up a dialogue with the MTA and Metro North to establish a bus shuttle service, like the existing service in parts of Somers and South Salem, from Yorktown to a nearby train station.
Why: Yorktown no longer has an active train station as we once did and this is proving to be a major impediment for potential growth. Providing a shuttle partnership for commuters will reduce traffic congestion, encourage the use of local mass transit and increase convenience for local workers.
How: Establishing a Yorktown Commuter Council to engage the MTA, MetroNorth and the MetroNorth Commuter Council with the mission of developing a shuttle system from Yorktown to a designated train station. Cost would be negotiated between Yorktown’s Commuter Council and necessary regulatory agency. The town would not supplement the cost but act as a conduit to the needed agencies.
What: According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in America have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. The Center for Disease Control has established a correlation between domestic violence and other health conditions such as stroke, heart disease, asthma and substance abuse. For a victim of domestic violence in Yorktown, other than the Yorktown Police Department, they need to drive on average 20 minutes to an agency that specializes in supporting domestic violence victims.
Why: Statistics show domestic violence is undoubtedly occurring in our community. A report released by News12 in March of this year showed 24 reported cases of domestic violence to the Yorktown Police Department. It is our obligation as neighbors to ensure professional help is available to those who seek it. In 2014, the Journal News cited the White Plains Police Department who found that victims who have quick access to lawyers were more likely to follow through.
How: Expanding services starts with reinforcing coalitions between local government, local police and our local courts as well as building new partnerships with existing service providers. Proactively seeking support from agencies such as the Putnam/Northern Westchester Women’s Resource Center, Pace Women’s Justice Center, Hope’s Door, WestCop and New Dawn could yield additional services and streamline processes for victims in Yorktown.
What: Reports show in New York State millions of pounds of dry pesticides, and gallons of liquid pesticides, have been used in homes, apartments, schools, parks, day care centers, senior centers, hospitals, offices and office buildings. While the Federal Government and New York State Government have taken steps to protect our families from these harmful chemicals there is more that local government can do. Implementing an integrated pesticide management program at our town facilities and parks will reduce exposure to harmful chemicals for our employees, visitors, children and families.
Why: There are direct correlations between exposure to harmful chemicals used in pesticides and health issues. New York State has cited birth defects and brain damage that can be caused by pesticides.
How: An integrated pest management program for town facilities and parks, similar to that implemented in Yonkers, would minimize entry points for rodents and pests. There are cultural practices, mechanical and physical controls, as well as biological controls that can be implemented that can reduce the need chemical pesticides.