There's No App for That

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According to one article, the amount of digital information increases tenfold every five years.  This trend applies as much as to local government as it does for the internet. 

Take a look at Metro's record center. 

One good example is Nashville's zoning ordinance.  Today's zoning code is 223 pages.  That doesn't include area specific guidelines like the 119 page Downtown Code.  I'm not suggesting that this complexity is inherently bad but it certainly makes public participation complicated.  How does someone who wants to interact occasionally as a citizen understand this legal context?

Another example of informational complexity for local government is the former waste to energy site downtown on the river.   Back in the 1970's Nashville built what was then believed to be a forward thinking environmental project. Nashville Thermal Transfer ("NTT") would take all waste collected in Davidson County and convert it to energy to heat and cool downtown buildings.  For decades, NTT disposed of most of Nashville's waste, heated and cooled most of downtown and provided a steady stream of funding for other public works projects.  That came to an end when the Supreme Court ended the City's ability to require waste to go there, environmental regulation changed and the City concluded that tax revenues from future development on the site would mean cost of elimination of NTT was low.  Currently, the site is being converted to a park.  How does that result connect to previous decisions?  How much did it truly cost to close NTT without the economic development of the site?

These questions don't allow for easy answers - in current parlance - there's no app for that.  Over the next few weeks, I'll offer a couple of suggestions about the Metro Council and how it could proactively create better opportunities for understanding and crating context.  Stay tuned.