Henon releases iPhone app ahead of the city

Committed to making city government more accessible, 6th District Councilman Bobby Henon introduced the long-awaited CityHall application for smartphone users.

The app is designed to provide residents, business owners and visitors of Philadelphia access to many of the services offered at City Hall right from the phone in their pocket.

Henon announced the new City Hall app is now available for the first time through iTunes to download to iPhones everywhere. The first version of the app will allow users to report problems they see in their neighborhoods, like graffiti, pot holes or more newsworthy problems the city is facing, such as absentee landlords.

“The app will be available to download for Android soon, but for now issues can be directed [through] the Web version,” Henon said.

Henon and his staff will take charge of the app by handling each request quickly and thoroughly. Anonymously, community members are already flooding the Web version of the app with areas of the city that need to be fixed.

One such case on available on the site, describes a sidewalk at 1515 Dyre St. in Frankford. The sidewalk is listed as had having cracks and holes of various sizes for about 10 years. The person went on to complain, saying the current owner, an absentee landlord from New York said she wasn’t going to waste her time fixing such a minor problem.

Users of the app will be able to post their issue from the comfort of their phone or their computer. Users will then be able to track the progress of their issue

or other issues right from the app. More complaints will be brought up on the site, if it proves to be a success.

Tacony resident Sean McGonigal said he thinks that the new app will help neighborhoods in Northeast Philadelphia grow.

“If people use the app and post their problems, more people will see everything wrong with this city and maybe we won’t have to rely on the government. Neighbors can work together to fix the problems if they are visible to the public,” McGonigal said.

The City Hall app is just one of the many ways that Henon is using to grow his social media presence. Henon uses Youtube to stream City Council sessions live, so community members don’t have to go, if they can’t fit it in their schedule. For feedback of the sessions, people can leave comments or concerns on the page of the stream, proving that Henon is doing all he can to reach out to the public.

It was during Thursday’s session that Henon introduced new legislation to create a Public Properties Task Force, after growing concerns of absentee landlords within the city. Henon said that the purpose of this legislation is to establish a creative and collaborative model for addressing properties that have the greatest impacts on the quality of our neighborhoods.

“Knocking down vacant buildings is only one part of the solution. We need to start thinking about how and why our buildings fall into disarray, about why they become abandoned in the first place, about the way that we respond when the first call comes in from a resident about short-dumping, about a broken window, about trash on a lawn and any other property maintenance issue. These problems start small, but over time can morph into problems that have disastrous outcomes,” Henon stated.

Henon has recently introduced legislation to hold joint hearings with Departments of Licensing and Inspections and Public Safety about some of these quality of life issues. “I believe that we should also be holding people accountable for the following the laws that are already on the books. And that resolution authorized the committees to issue subpoenas to compel witnesses to testify,” Henon said.

This intuitive comes months after Henon created the Bad Neighbor Map, identifying a list of bad properties that threaten the neighborhoods of Northeast Philadelphia.

The properties showed in this interactive map, which have been cited for rental violations, License and Inspection violations and property tax delinquency. “People can click on these properties and view more details about their violations,” Henon said.

Henon has released some of the property owners names, who will be asked to testify before an upcoming hearing about the properties they own. Henon will release the names of additional witness over the next week. If they are unwilling to come voluntarily, more subpoenas will be issued.

“I believe that Philadelphians live up to the expectations of the community. I believe that we can change the culture of this city. I believe that together we can improve the quality of the lives every Philadelphian,” Henon said.

With the use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and modernized phone apps, the city’s social media presence is becoming more of an important part of cleaning up every neighborhood within the city.

 Matthew Flowers is a student reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, the publication of Temple University’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.

 

 

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