Technical.ly Philly

Apr. 11, 2012 11:30 am

The city app debate: Councilman Bobby Henon plans to launch CityHall App before Philly 311

A public, Philly 311 mobile app to supplement the city’s non-emergency call center was last week again pledged to Philadelphians by summer, two years after first missing a deadline. New sixth district City Councilman Bobby Henon is promising a similar tool dubbed cleverly-enough the CityHall iPhone app as soon as next week, as the Daily […]

Photo credit: Councilman Bobby Henon's official web site.

A public, Philly 311 mobile app to supplement the city’s non-emergency call center was last week again pledged to Philadelphians by summer, two years after first missing a deadline.

New sixth district City Councilman Bobby Henon is promising a similar tool dubbed cleverly-enough the CityHall iPhone app as soon as next week, as the Daily News first reported.

With Philly 311 possibly dropping this summer and online reporting service SeeClickFix, it’s legitimate to ask whether the CityHall App is redundant.

On his Twitter feed Henon refutes that possibility, tweeting: ” Our goal was to create a framework that will allow us to eventually add more services not provided by other apps.”

He added, “And 311 or SCF doesn’t help a constituent contest a parking ticket. That is a possible future service of the CityHall App.”

Henon is referring to legislation he and City Councilman Bill Green are working on that would allow Philadelphians to contest parking tickets and other citations without appearing at a city agency in person.

The app was designed by Micah Mahjoubian of Soapbox Solutions, who has handled all of Henon’s  social media and communications efforts since January. Mahjoubian says users can take pictures, use Facebook or tweet issues directly to Henon’s office through the app, and a push notification will be sent to the informant when the problem is resolved.

Mahjoubian told Technically Philly that Henon paid for development with funds from his PAC — campaign, not legislative funds — and would effectively be ‘donated’ to the city.

“We looked at existing services, but decided to build a custom app so we could create a framework to expand the functionality beyond the normal pothole, graffiti, sidewalk, streets, snow issues that other apps and 311 handle,” Mahjoubian said. “Of course, Bobby wanted to work quickly and get it released within a couple months.  He felt that the city had already moved too slowly and believed that by moving forward quickly, he would be able to help move the rest of the city along.”

It seems Philadelphians may soon get a mobile app to report city issues, just not the one they were expecting.

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Yael Borofsky was the lead reporter for Technically Philly from from December 2011 to June 2012 before leaving to pursue an urban studies graduate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Previously she was an editor with the Breakthrough Journal in San Francisco. She loves hockey and coffee.

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