July 19, 2010 By Russell Nichols
The new Twitter account launched by the Los Angeles County Public Works Department may be a good sign of things to come. Not only does it show another department using social media to connect with citizens, but if you follow LACoSurveyor on Twitter, you can track the latest tract and parcel maps, which may be an early indicator of economic recovery.
"We have historical records in our database that go back to 1977," said Dennis Hunter, assistant deputy director in the department's Land Development Division. "We have a trend that we can match up against other economic indicators such as new building permits and the stock market, which will give us a better idea of when we seem to be coming out of the trough of this economic period."
Followers can monitor economic trends by watching for changes in the number of recorded subdivision maps throughout Los Angeles County, including the unincorporated areas and all 88 cities. In addition, LACoSurveyor will also send out other land surveying and development-related tweets. (The tweeting is automated so that when data is added or changed in the system, it's automatically posted on Twitter the next day.) Various industry topics may include proposed legislation or policy changes and updated subdivision processing guidelines.
"At first I see the land surveyor community being the primary customer base," Hunter wrote in a California Land Surveyors Association forum, "but over time, I think homeowner associations and property owners as well as real estate interests would follow the tweets to see where subdivision activity is occurring throughout the county and what trend is developing (greenfield, redevelopment, density increases, etc.)."
As of July 19, LACoSurveyor had sent out 28 updates with 90 followers. The IT team has set up the system so the tweets go out automatically every day, Hunter said, which helps the county cut down on phone calls, reduce turnaround time and free up staff to focus on map checking. In doing so, he added, Twitter also cuts department operating costs because some visitors don't need to commute for miles to visit Public Works facilities.
"Los Angeles County is a big county," he said. "To physically have to come into our offices to get mapping records could take a lot of time out of their day."
Residents can also download subdivision maps from the Public Works website. The site also contains links to other Web pages for additional county subdivision and survey-related information.
"Eventually I plan on encouraging adjoiners and neighbors to tweet back with site photos, code enforcement issues on the property and known boundary concerns," Hunter wrote.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.