SCIENCE

US Cities Using Tech to Cull Ideas From Citizens

New York City Comptroller John Liu, center, listens while participants in a public meeting suggest audits for his office in New York. New York and cities around the country are trying to follow the example of private companies and use technology and the Internet to harness the wisdom of citizens and create virtual civic forums.

New York City Comptroller John Liu, center, listens while participants in a public meeting suggest audits for his office in New York. New York and cities around the country are trying to follow the example of private companies and use technology and the Internet to harness the wisdom of citizens and create virtual civic forums.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

In a city of millions, how many people go knocking on the door of City Hall?

Most citizens know they can bring their problems and ideas directly to elected officials. But in reality, the process of speaking at a public hearing, calling a complaint line or writing a letter can be time-consuming and seem to make little impact.

Now, cities around the country trying to unclog bureaucracy are using technology to harness the wisdom of citizens, make use of their skills and create virtual civic forums.

New York will soon be asking the public to make suggestions online and by text message about how to make the city greener and more sustainable. Those who make proposals will be invited to join with others to make similar changes happen.