$600K added to IT office budget as Peduto administration promises modernization
Dan McSwiggen spent the past eight years in renovation mode, transforming a gutted historic East Carson Street building into apartments with exposed brick, high ceilings and Downtown views.
But a communication breakdown while navigating the city of Pittsburgh's permitting process has him taking a step backward.
Three months ago, McSwiggen, 57, installed six wood-frame windows to comply with a Historic Review Commission requirement for the century-old structure in the South Side. When he sought an occupancy permit, he was surprised to learn the windows above the fire escape must be fire-rated.
McSwiggen said if the permit application process were online, he might not have wasted hundreds of dollars on the wrong windows.
“It would certainly make it a lot more efficient,” he said. “They'd get their money sooner, we'd get the place rehabbed sooner, and they'd get their tax money sooner.”
Pittsburgh doesn't provide the easy, online access to some services that many people have come to expect from banks, schools and retailers, say officials seeking to upgrade city technology.
“It's the 1980s,” said Councilman Dan Gilman of Shadyside. “You can't go online, click ‘Dumpster permit' and charge it to your credit card.”
Permits must be purchased in person, with a check or money order. Zoning applications must be submitted in person from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays. The city's plow trucks don't have GPS systems to help plan and track routes.
Mayor Bill Peduto has tasked Chief Innovation and Performance Officer Debra Lam with modernizing government functions.
“Our internal service is to support these departments in order for them to service the city,” Lam said. “That is a huge underpinning of our goal.”
What formerly was City Information Systems, the IT department, has been rebranded with the goal of increasing communication among city departments and streamlining services. First-year goals include upgrading the city's cable channel, revamping the 311 hotline system and starting open data programs to make information freely available, pending City Council approval. The city recently started a 311 Twitter feed to accept and respond to complaints.
This year, the IT office has a budget of about $13.8 million, a nearly $600,000 increase from last year.
Peduto pledged to make technology projects a priority, said spokeswoman Sonya Toler.
Sylvia Harris, deputy director for operations and a six-year city employee, is in charge of a citywide upgrade from Microsoft Windows XP to Windows 7 spanning at least 1,800 computers. A free upgrade awaited approval last year.
“We have more of a voice now, and this administration, to me, seems to care more about technology,” Harris said.
Lam's team plans to build a data cloud, which would give employees remote access to systems and serve as an emergency backup.
Audrey Russo, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, said most governments lag behind the private sector in technology. She's encouraged by open data legislation and the move toward Web-based services.
“This is a good time to close that divide from city government,” she said.
Todd Sander, executive director of the Center for Digital Government, said one of the most popular national trends is providing mobile access to government services through tablets and smartphones.
“The governments we see getting the highest marks from their citizens are the ones who understand and are building that in to the service delivery capability,” Sander said.
Melissa Daniels is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8511 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- U.S. Steel to relocate corporate headquarters on former Civic Arena site
- Allegheny judge Woodruff, ex-Steelers corner, to run for Pa. Supreme Court
- Allegheny County will stop asking about employees’ criminal history, executive says
- Stores creating Thanksgiving dine-and-dash dilemma
- Iraqi family, torn apart for opposing Saddam, reunites in Pittsburgh
- Police investigating fire at South Side self storage units
- Horse racing industry banks on Wolf
- Savings, aesthetics of LED praised, but streetlight conversion could cost Pittsburgh $13M
- Time capsule salutes 250 years for Fort Pitt Block House
- Martial arts tournament in Marshall fierce, yet friendly
- Youngsters embrace technology that combines art, software in 3D printing