FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nov. 27, 2002
CONTACT: Carol Anderson
Two EMU Professors Receive $241,000
Grant for Online
Community Communications Improvement Project
YPSILANTI Ypsilanti residents will soon have the opportunity to test the theory that more public input produces better government.
Area residents, via the Internet, will be able to weigh in on important issues
and projects, thanks to a federal grant given to Eastern Michigan University.
EMU professors Norman Tyler and Yichun Xie, both of the geography and geology
department, are using $241,000 from the U.S. Department of Commerce to continue
a community communications project called WebPolis Consortium. The project encourages
greater community involvement in local government decision-making using the
We are constantly challenged to find cost saving methods for making government
more efficient, reliable and more accessible to our citizens, said Ypsilanti
Mayor Cheryl Farmer. The WebPolis Consortium has the potential to do all
of this. We are thrilled to learn that EMU faculty members have been awarded
a grant that will allow them to work collaboratively with us, their host city,
on this promising e-project.
WebPolis will create interactive applications to enhance city government decision-making.
Officials can share technologies, resources and information with other communities
and citizens can become more informed about local issues.
The interactivity of WebPolis is a big draw, said Tyler. Local
officials can talk to one another and to residents. People get overwhelmed by
computers, but when you enter the portal, its a simple interface. The
only thing you need is a computer with an Internet browser. We dont want
to scare off residents from using it (WebPolis), said Tyler.
According to Ypsilanti city planner, Nathan Voght, WebPolis will enable citizens
to send comments and opinions to city officials as well as see the comments
of other citizens and the replies from officials. He said it would be similar
to an electronic bulletin board. Citizens also would be able to evaluate comments
by checking a box indicating they found an opinion valuable. The site will be
ready for public use by March 2003. The project is in its second year and due
to be completed in 2005.
Voght said he is looking to get city government entirely online. According
to a 2002 study by the Institute for Electronic Government at IBM, government
agencies cut costs 70 percent by moving services online.
One of Ypsilantis demonstration sites for WebPolis will be the Riverwalk
project. Residents will be asked about the location of a pedestrian crosswalk
across Michigan Avenue.
An additional application for WebPolis could be a proposed parking lot in Ypsilanti.
Residents would be able to log on to the site and find cost analysis of alternate
schemes, GIS (geographic information systems) mapping of a parking lot with
various layers of information such as streets and building locations, discussions
between residents or a resident and an official, or a survey on the need for
a parking lot, said Tyler. A decision to build a parking lot in Ypsilanti could
be reviewed by residents of the consortium in member cities, thus learning from
the experience of others, he said.
Additional possible uses for WebPolis are Web video social service programs
for seniors and shut-ins, online recording of local history, online mentoring
of school children by local volunteers and an online newsletter.
A user fee paid by the cities for their residents will fund WebPolis.
Partners in the consortium include Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti,
Albion, the Washtenaw County Administrators Office, Forks Organization
of Calhoun County, Albion Economic Development Corporation, Albion College and
the Michigan Society of Planners.