I was watching Mayor Michael Bloomberg on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" recently, and he and Kimmel talked about an app that New York City has launched under his watch: NYC 311.
The way they described it on the show, anyone with the app can press a button to report graffiti or a pothole or a crime. You send along your position, and the city will send someone to try and solve the problem.
I know some people in Havre would love to have such a direct line into City Hall, but I'm not sure how easy it is to send a message from an app to a fax machine.
I also know some people in Havre may read this and instantly read into it a tyrannical overreach, with the government tracking their every move, from the dark depths of the same mind behind the unthinkable large soda ban.
I don't know. I feel like it would be useful and constructive far more frequently than it would be maliciously abused. Call me a Pollyanna, but I'm pretty sure that if the government wants to track you, they wouldn't use a voluntarily used app like this. At least not since everyone in the world became a terrorism suspect.
I haven't used the app, but I've played around a bit with the website, nyc.gov/apps/311/, which provides handy access to many programs and pieces of information, from the status of a school bus strike to a guide to Lunar New Year festivities in Chinatown.
It seems like, maybe 20 years from now, every city will have something like this, but even more interactive. I would like to see a whole system, with one account per resident, used to pay city bills for water, sewer and garbage pickup, that also allows you to propose and debate informal legislation, as a guide for the elected legislators, a digital revival of that old Greek forum.
But there, you see, my old Pollyanna-ing again. I should have that looked at. It can't be healthy.
(Zach White is a reporter for the Havre Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected].)