I think Code for America’s mission is really demonstrating the possible. There are a lot of good reasons why city government works the way it does. But the municipal government is there to serve citizens, and oftentimes it can be risk-averse. And that makes sense, right? You don’t want to experiment too much with public funds.
But cities, in some ways, are one of the few monopolies. If you need a private service, you have a lot of options for where to go. But if you need to get a business license, or you need to get your home inspected, you don’t really have an option. If you want to do business in New York, or South Bend, or San Francisco, you have to deal with the city. You could leave and go to another city, but if you want to stay there, you’ve got to be willing to wait.
As fellows, we try to show that cities can function in ways that make it easy for citizens to interact with them. A lot of people are frustrated with government. It shouldn’t feel like we have an adversarial relationship to government. And I think cities that participate in the Code for America fellowship are the ones that are really committed and visionary about the fact that government is us. It’s there to serve the people. These are the cities that want to show the ways in which government can actually be a really good experience.
As told to J.J. McCorvey
[Image: Flickr user University of Michigan]