City of Las Vegas website lets residents weigh in

Imagine Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman recording your outgoing voice mail message.

It is a possible incentive the city is planning for its newest attempt at getting more residents engaged in local government : your voice vegas.com.

The website, launched at the beginning of this year, lists topics that city officials establish, be it a proposed ordinance, ideas for greater sustainability or ideas for attracting new businesses. Residents log in, comment and share ideas about the topics.

Users are rewarded with points for interacting with the site, and city spokeswoman Heather Curry, who is overseeing it, said her staff is planning possible rewards for users cashing in their points.

"We’ve got a list of ideas going. There are some good ones out there," she said. "There are a lot of opportunities out there, whether it’s internally or partnering with local companies. We could offer rewards like tickets to something – a museum, for example."

The site was developed by MindMixer, a website design company focused on community engagement. MindMixer’s product is being used by school districts, corporations, politicians and municipalities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

"We’ve seen a lot of good results," said Sina Matthes , a spokeswoman for the city of Phoenix who is helping run its version of the site, myplanphx.com. "We just hit 1,000 users, which is great because that means 1,000 are communicating with the government who may not normally have the chance."

My plan phx.com offers incentives such as museum tickets, tours of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field and even lunch with the deputy city manager Rick Naimark .

In a unique city such as Las Vegas, Curry said the website will be an invaluable resource.

"It is not always easy to connect with residents in this city," she said. "Many people work odd shifts and can’t always make it to meetings."

Participation in public meetings is not at the level city officials would like to see, Curry said.

Yourvoicevegas.com has few topics currently posted, but Curry said the site will continue to expand and evolve as the number of users increases.

"We started with a few general questions to get the ball rolling," she said . "We want people to begin using it as part of their daily routine. "

The city entered into a two-year contract with MindMixer for use of its program, tech support and customer service at a cost of nearly $22,000.

Local app developer Shaun Swanson, who helped create Ayloo, which serves as a digital community bulletin board for iPhone users, said in an email that the possibility of community-led change is exciting, but the city needs to continue adding fresh content to maintain interest.

Ayloo also provides feedback, notifying its users of what is being worked on and which community projects have been completed, among other things.

"This might be a good idea as the (city) government starts to execute on the (most popular) ideas or makes a decision not to go with the popular vote and explains why," he said.

One of the biggest hurdles the city of Phoenix dealt with was its site’s requirement that the user have an email account, according to Josh Bednarek , a member of Phoenix’s planning and development department .

"People who don’t have an email account are more likely to engage with us at our regular meetings," he said. "The mayor (Greg Stanton) is hoping to get a new generation of people involved in local government and foster a growth of new leaders from the 25-to-34 age bracket."

Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Nolan Lister at nlister@viewnews.com or 702-383-0492.

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