Madison Heights considers IT advisory board

By: Andy Kozlowski, | Madison - Park News | Published January 8, 2014

MADISON HEIGHTS — Madison Heights City Councilman Mark Bliss is hoping to advance the “City of Progress,” and for inspiration, he’s looking west — west to Foster City, Calif. With about 30,000 residents, Foster City is similar in size to Madison Heights — but they have something Madison Heights does not.

In 1996, Foster City formed an Information Technology Advisory Committee (ITAC) to review the city’s overall strategic IT plan. Since then, ITAC helped shape Foster City’s web presence, advised on fiber-optic networks, encouraged competitive bids among telephone and cable TV providers, and more.

Seeing the success Foster City has had with ITAC, Bliss wants to see Madison Heights form one of its own.

“I’ve been working on this literally since the day I was elected,” Bliss said. “What’s really great about putting in an ITAC is it shows the community that technology is an area we are focused on. We are the ‘City of Progress,’ and technology has become such a big part of government. To show our citizens we have a focus and commitment there is one of the great benefits of forming an ITAC.”

But nothing is a done deal. After his appointment to City Council this past November, Bliss requested that city staff research the possibility of forming an ITAC. If the rest of City Council agrees to it, one could be formed this year.

Like other city boards, it would be made up of residents. They would be accompanied by a city staff liaison, around which meetings would be scheduled, so as to not cost the city anything extra. There would also be a representative from City Council.

“The structure would likely be similar to our Parks and Recreation Advisory Board,” Bliss said. “We’re shooting for a small but well-qualified group of citizens with an understanding of technology.”

Bliss noted a number of areas where an ITAC could share input. In the coming years, the city will be transitioning out of old computers as part of a scheduled upgrade. ITAC could advise on this, as well as a potential telecommunications equipment upgrade.

They could also find ways for the city to more effectively communicate with residents by leveraging Facebook, Twitter and other tools.

“We also need to make sure that all of our (city board) meetings are publically available online,” Bliss said. “They should be linkable and sharable; someone should be able to take a video of a particular vote and email that to someone.”     

Mayor Pro Tem Brian Hartwell expressed support for Bliss’ proposal, seconding his request for city staff to research it.

“The subject of technology is so pertinent nowadays,” Hartwell said. “Some other boards may be a bit stale, but when it comes to technology, it’s vitally important to the city. Mr. Bliss wants (ITAC) to be a long-term part of Madison Heights, and I would agree with that. We’re trying to be current, and we’re trying to organize citizen groups that reflect the modern youth of the city.”  

Those who would like to serve on a potential Information Technology Advisory Committee can indicate their interest by emailing City Councilman Mark Bliss at markbliss@madison-heights.org.