Tampa FL Delivering Up-To-Date Community Information to All Citizens
Alliance for Innovation
The City of Tampa’s (pop. 334,550) Technology and Innovation Department, along
with the Neighborhood and Community Relations Division, recently developed and
implemented an innovative interactive service featuring information on Tampa’s
organized neighborhoods via the City of Tampa’s website -
Prior to developing Tampa’s new service, city personnel recognized that
community-specific information was very limited on Tampa’s existing website.
City staff members researched other known best of breed municipal websites and
their offerings, but were disappointed with the level of comprehensive
information available at the detailed neighborhood level.
As a result, the City of Tampa refocused its efforts on reviewing the types of
inquiries citizens were making, and reviewing the variety of data resources
available that could be collated under a single facility for easy access. This
became the basis for creating an integrated set of information resources.
The city was determined to provide an innovative online service, capable of
providing users with up-to-date information on Tampa’s neighborhoods along with
city-wide issues of interest. The finished product is an extraordinarily useful
tool allowing web visitors to select a specific neighborhood by clicking on a
map, entering an address, selecting a name from a list of organized
associations, or merely entering a neighborhood name.
The online service provides comprehensive coverage of the nearly 100 organized
neighborhoods within the City of Tampa. Accessible community information
includes neighborhood association contacts, neighborhood and city-wide news
postings, neighborhood meeting calendars and schedules, photographs covering all
neighborhoods, area demographics (household characteristics, per capita income,
population, racial and ethnic diversity, etc.), land use (residential,
commercial, industrial, recreational, wetlands, etc.), and printable maps.
The facility provides access to unique neighborhood characteristics such as
Tampa City Council districts, evacuation and flood zones, hospitals, libraries,
parks and schools. The information delivered to the public incorporates data
sources (via mash-ups) from various city departments along with external
agencies including Hillsborough County and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Printer-ready renderings are provided for personal use (i.e. letter size), small
meeting/committee use (i.e. ledger size), and large public forum use (i.e.
plotter size). Tampa’s own Technology and Innovation Department Web Programming
Section managed the project, and no outside vendors were used. It took on the
systems design and programming development responsibilities from both functional
and technical perspectives; and the staff identified all external information
sources for integration.
The Neighborhood and Community Relations staff provided all the mandatory
functional requirements, along with the collection of the initial neighborhood
data. The project, known as the neighborhoods facility initiative, embodies the
vision of delivering citizen-oriented services. One of the biggest technical
challenges involved creating data mash-ups from multiple government agencies. It
contains information resources directly from the Neighborhood and Community
Relations Division, neighborhood leaders, city departments, Hillsborough County,
Southwest Florida Water Management District, and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Another significant technical feat was ensuring a suitable method was created to
produce colored polygons (i.e. neighborhoods) for presentation via a Google map
interface. Prior to Tampa’s efforts, little work had been done successfully in
this area with respect to the number of areas/regions mapped that retained
reasonable performance characteristics.
The project can serve as a comprehensive model to illustrate that typical
community information and maps can be shared. Data can be consolidated from
different agencies and shared effectively.
Tampa reports that citizens are using the new facility extensively, and that it
immediately became one of the most popular City of Tampa website services. The
Neighborhood and Community Relations staff has reported a positive response from
citizens to the service. Using WebTrends to follow utilization, the city reports
that the facility had nearly 6,500 visits and over 23,000 page views in July
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