Catherine Geanuracos
January 5, 2021

Five issues facing local governments in 2020

The key issue that local governments faced in 2020 was responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Government teams learned how to work remotely - fast! Municipalities and counties began offering digital services to restart key functions like permitting and zoning approvals and business licensing as quickly as possible. Communities set up COVID relief grants for businesses and individuals and figured out how to spend CARES Act funds efficiently. Governments created new programs to support outdoor dining and safe reopening protocols for businesses to help our communities make it through the economic impacts of the pandemic.

Local government leaders faced a range of challenging issues in 2020. - in addition to COVID. We based this list on conversations with our local government partners, themes and questions at the best-attended sessions at the conferences we attended this year, and what our partners at CivStart have learned through their conversations with counties across the country.

Where it's appropriate, we're offering ways that workflow automation tools like CityGrows can help with these important challenges. Here's what we think 2020 holds in store:

  • Economic Development: While the economy is strong, many communities are struggling to build equitable opportunity for all their residents and businesses. Unemployment is at historic lows, yet most regions and communities still need more family-sustaining jobs. Read how Albuquerque and New Orleans are increasing venture capital investment in underrepresented communities (via Living Cities). When governments bring business permitting and licensing workflows online, new businesses can start up faster, accelerating job creation.
  • Homelessness and housing affordability: Rising rents and home prices result when there's not enough housing supply. By the state's own assessment, California should be building four times as many units of housing per year than it is now. Seattle made it easier to build "Accessory Dwelling Units" which increase density without changing the character of single-family neighborhoods. When governments bring building and zoning workflows online, new housing can be built more quickly.
  • Cannabis regulation: For governments where it's already legal, they're struggling with how to manage and regulate. For places where it's not legal (yet), law enforcement and community leaders wonder when change will come to their communities. While some large governments have deployed expensive systems that have taken years to set up (and resulted in complaints about equity and fairness),that's just not a feasible option for smaller communities. If you're permitting cannabis-related businesses, digital applications and review allow for automatic transparency and clarity for your community, and don't have to break the bank.
  • The sharing/ gig economy: New forms of shared mobility and non-traditional work are changing communities. Shared cars, scooters and bikes may improve some aspects of mobility but reduce transit ridership. AirBnB may increase your community's net tourism volume, but upset some neighbors. Using workflow automation tools like CityGrows to host short term rental registration permits and tracking shared transit using tools like the Mobility Data Specification increase the likelihood that governments can understand (and effectively regulate if needed) new forms of economic activity.
  • Accessibility: While governments have been working towards improving physical accessibility for years, there's a new push (and new legal challenges) to governments' digital accessibility. Transitioning forms from PDFs into digital, responsive, screen-readable workflows can help.

What issues will your community be facing that aren't on this list? Is there a way that better technology and workflow automation could help?

We hope you're as inspired as we are by the great work being done in communities of all sizes across the country to increase prosperity, safety, and accessibility.

Catherine Geanuracos

Catherine is the CEO and a Co-Founder of CityGrows. She's dedicated to supporting local governments and helping them improve outcomes for their residents and staff members. She is a former VP of the City of Los Angeles Innovation and Performance Commission and co-founder of LA's Code for America Brigade Hack for LA. She's based in Los Angeles.

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