Grand Rapids finds solution for single source of information

Published on 20 August 2019

Leg Up Screen Shot.png

Karyn Ferrick, Government and Legislative Affairs Manager for the City of Grand Rapids (MI), was looking for a platform that could be a single location for the organization’s leadership to access information on state and federal legislative actions. The current process for researching legislative bills, orders and more required City leaders to visit different websites and know exactly what to search for.

When Becky Jo Glover, Grand Rapids’ Chief Customer Service and Innovation Officer, learned that Ferrick was looking for a solution, she knew she could help. She connected with Zac Thiel, Grand Rapids’ Digital and Data Strategist, and, together, they found the solution in the OpenCities platform that powers the City’s public-facing website.

An OpenCities subsite would provide City leaders with all the information they needed in one place. With a little creativity, it would be used to inform staff about upcoming legislative and executive actions and be a resource for all their government affairs work. Since the City was already using the OpenCities platform, the subsite would take only two months to develop and launch.

By using OpenCities API, Thiel wrote a script to pull data from multiple website feeds and automatically populate pages. The result was real-time automated information on current bills and executive actions and scheduled House and Senate meetings that show in the site’s calendar.

The subsite also features links to live Senate and House meetings and current contact information for legislators. Ferrick can keep City leaders updated and connected through the site’s blog and announcements at the top of the homepage.

Thiel partnered with the OpenCities team to launch the new site, Leg Up, which is named after Ferrick’s legislative update reports. As planned, the site is proving to be more than just information on current actions.

“Through Leg Up, we’re providing the same service to our internal staff that we offer to our residents – Make current content easy to find,” Thiel said. “It also encourages collaboration across all our City departments. Just like with our public website, OpenCities is the best tool we have for this work.”

Leg Up is a beta site for the City Manager’s Cabinet – comprised of top-level leaders. Future plans include making it available to more Grand Rapids staff.

“By putting information in one location, we are giving our leadership team the ability to easily research information about state and federal government and legislative actions,” Ferrick stated.  “I’m thankful that we were able to use the OpenCities platform, which gave us the tools needed to quickly launch an informative and interactive site.  We’ll be able to keep City leadership informed and aligned as One City when more users are able to access the site. It has been a great solution.”


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