Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Powerful new tool for concerned citizens

On this blog, you'll see news about problems with animals.  A lot of these, like rodents trashing your car, are private--your problem to solve.  Others, like when the woman jumped into the polar bear pool at the zoo, deserve a call to 911.

But quite a few problem are public--for example, people feeding animals, or food available to animals because garbage is improperly stored.  Problems like these can be solved with the help of a new Web site....

Fix this problem: turtle crossing needed

"See Click Fix" is "a local advocacy Web site that lets users write about issues to encourage communication between residents and local government. SeeClickFix users post a complaint about problems that occur within a set of boundaries on a Google Map, like graffiti at a bus stop or potholes on a busy street, and the site communicates the problem to the appropriate government agency and marks the problem on the map.

Users can comment on the issue or label it resolved. Government agencies can post on the site to respond to residents, and journalists can use the site to communicate with readers and see which issues are most pressing to people.

Ben Berkowitz, the chief executive of SeeClickFix, said the tool went beyond government: 'Anyone can be held accountable: a business, nonprofit, even a private citizen.'" Read more.

Fixing problems involving animals

While the above example mentions problems like potholes in streets, we can use the site for animal problems like:
  • Improperly stored garbage--cans with lids off, tipped over dumpsters, etc.
  • Trash that's attracting rodents, or other areas frequented by rodents.
  • People creating a nuisance by feeding wildlife.  For example, some towns have large populations of skunks because a few people put out unlimited catfood for feral cats.  You can make anonymous posts.
  • Areas on highways were wildlife cross.
  • Cruelty to animals.
  • Report a deer carcass by the highway.
So go to, and start solving problems in your neighborhood!

How to use "SeeClickFix"

You do not need an account on SeeClickFix--but you can easily start one if you already have a Facebook account. The site does have Pro accounts for businesses that require a fee, but citizens do not have to pay a membership fee.
  1. Citizens start here.
  2. In the box under "citizens get started," type in your city, neighborhood, or zip. Experiment with the map or lists of neighborhoods till you find the area you want to work within. I'd recommend your city, since the site is new.
  3. Check out to see what problems your neighbors have reported. But probably there won't be any, since SeeClickFix is new.
  4. Next, report your first problem. Click on the tab "report an issue."
  5. Indicate where your issue is. You can type in an address, or you can use the map to drag the symbol over the right location. Use the arrows to move the map till it covers your area. When done, click "go to step 2."
  6. State the problem. First enter something short and clear in the "summary" blank. This will be the name of your problem, so make it short, clear, and descriptive. If more details are needed, you can add them in the space below.
  7. Next, it's highly recommended to add a photo.
  8. Add your e-mail address in the blank. It will not be shared with the public.
  9. When you are done entering, click on "report your issue."
  10. Next, wait for a bit while your photo and report are uploaded. Next, you will see some suggestions above for what to do next. For example, you can email your report to your facebook friends, or you can even print a ready-made flier to slip under your neighbor's door.
Next, make some attempts to solve the issue yourself, and post what you are doing on the comments below the posting of your problem. You need to set an example that this system works, and that problems get fixed.

Think of SeeClickFix as a public bulletin board where problems are aired and people work together to solve them.

It's a great new tool for citizens--but if no one picks up the tool, no work gets done.

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