Game changer: Public information

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Vitaly Troyan, PE, serves as the director of public works for the City of Oakland, Calif., with a population of 400,000 people. He leads a staff of more than 720 people and his agency is responsible for managing the city's infrastructure, which includes streets, sidewalks, sewers, storm drains, streetlights, parks, trees, facilities, and fleet. His agency is also responsible for the capital-improvement program, including engineering, project and construction management, and traffic engineering. Photo: Mira Troyan

VITALY TROYAN, PE

DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC WORKS
OAKLAND, CALIF.

Learn how to function in an environment where every resident is a potential city inspector, warns Vitaly Troyan.

More and more communities are passing “sunshine” ordinances requiring business to be done in the open, information to be made available before a decision is made, and debate to occur in public. “Open data” systems will make any information collected by government available for review, analysis, interpretation, and potential manipulation.

“The information you use — traffic accident data, parking availability, pavement condition scores, response time to service requests, cost and effectiveness of any given activity — will be available to the general public,” Troyan says. “On the positive side, computer applications developed by the private sector will improve quality of life. On the negative side, you'll be forced to defend decisions against people who manipulate raw data to support their point of view.”

You'll also need to master use of social media.

“The ability to communicate effectively with an unseen audience and embrace these new ‘inspectors' as an extension of the public works family will determine success or failure,” says Troyan.

— Weiler is a freelance writer in Mount Prospect, Ill.