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In the Bronx, Text Your Councilman

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, June 15 2010

After experimenting with the proprietary community issues platform SeeClickFix, New York City Councilman Fernando Cabrera is launching another new tool to try — this one using Google Voice to process constituent issues via text message.

Staff for Cabrera, who represents a chunk of the West Bronx, applied for and recently received a Google Voice account, explained Zellnor Myrie, Cabrera's press and legislative director. The phone number uses Google's transcription software, which often produces unintentionally hilarious transcripts of calls, to convert voice messages to an e-mail sent to a staff account — but it can also receive text messages and pass those along, too.

“We've already gotten inquiries from constituents,” Myrie said. “We have helped people via text.”

Cabrera, a pastor who won his council seat just last year, is encouraging his staff to try new ways of reaching out through technology, Myrie added.

While most of the inquiries in the number's two days of operation so far have been people just testing to see if it worked, Cabrera's staff was able to help at least one man find more information about his unemployment checks, Myrie said.

We noted it in March when Cabrera became, according to SeeClickFix, the first City Council member to get a “Pro” account on the platform. Since then, he has acknowledged 14 issues submitted through the platform on his website. Two more are still open. He hasn't closed any tickets — SeeClickFix parlance, borrowed from the hallowed basements of the IT community, for seeing an issue through to its resolution and declaring it fixed. The issues range from “rodent problem” to complaints of no heat in an apartment building.

For West Bronx readers, Cabrera's new Google Voice number is (347) 541-5768.