We’re kicking off the week at the 2018 ICMA Annual Conference in Baltimore, where local government managers and staff have gathered to discuss strategies for building more resilient, sustainable, and safe communities—smart communities.

Smart city initiatives range from very technical to simple yet sophisticated. Smart initiatives are only as good as the impact they have on community engagement and quality of life. Take, for example, the Neighborhood Makeover program launched by the City of Westland, Michigan, in May 2017. Rather than apply a one-size-fits-all program to the entire city, the initiative seeks to bring customized, neighborhood-level services to city residents.

The program divides the city into 50 neighborhoods and tracks approximately 50 service-level questions that impact the quality of life in each community. From tree trimming and graffiti removal to road repair and water line inspections, each neighborhood is thoroughly assessed.

The smart part? Crews digitally log their observations and work activities in Cityworks from the field.

“When a work order is added, we’ll geocode it right off the bat,” explains Mike Dittmar, meter department foreman at the City of Westland. “Then we can open our map, open that work order, and the map will automatically zoom to that location. It’ll pinpoint exactly where the issue is in the city.”

Cityworks® and Esri ArcGIS® together help Westland track all of the inspections, labor, cost, materials, and work activities in any particular neighborhood. They also empower Westland staff to analyze the program data internally and communicate valuable updates to their residents.

“GIS and Cityworks go hand-in-hand. You can have as many databases as you want, you can have as many spreadsheets as you want, but your data is completely meaningless unless you can link it to a physical place or object,” said Craig Brown, chief innovation officer at the City of Westland.

“When we use GIS, we can see data not just on a city level, but on a neighborhood level, right in someone’s backyard. We can look at their specific needs and shape the services the city has available to better take care of them.”

Westland is using a GIS-centric approach to create a defined, uniform dataset for evaluating the health of each neighborhood—providing a valuable baseline for future investment needs.

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