The Coast News Group
Carlsbad City Hall. Photo by Steve Puterski
Carlsbad City Hall. Photo by Steve Puterski

‘Connected Carlsbad’ plan to tie together services, projects

CARLSBAD — A digital outline for the city’s connectivity got the green light during the Jan. 14 City Council meeting.

The council approved “Connected Carlsbad,” a roadmap and action plan encompassing the city’s efforts of existing and future initiatives showing a comprehensive picture of what the city is doing to create a more connected community, according to David Graham, Carlsbad’s chief innovation officer.

Graham surveyed about 100 city employees and conducted community surveys to identify five priorities for the roadmap. The priorities are to pursue a communitywide digital transformation,

build capacity for data-driven decision making, foster civic engagement, enhance accessibility and transparency and promote security and sustainability through connectivity.

“It allows for the consistent engagement with the community,” Graham said. “It is the place where people can consistently engage with the city.”

However, a spirited discussion ensued with the council regarding the cost, for which no estimates were provided during Graham’s presentation. Mayor Matt Hall and Councilwoman Cori Schumacher each expressed concerns over a lack of those financials, along with more precise details of the action plan, with Schumacher considering not supporting the roadmap and action plan.

However, Graham and City Manager Scott Chadwick assured Schumacher no actionable items within the roadmap would slip through the cracks. Any cost-associated project, they said, must be approved by the council either on a case-by-case basis or through the annual budget process.

In addition, Graham will return to the council within 60 days and provide specific timelines, estimated costs and longer-term projections.

“For me … that’s what I expect when someone is coming to me for a commitment and direction that will have a significant amount of funds to it,” Schumacher said. “I’d like to bring the public along in this discussion and allow the public to see the roadmap.”

Graham said municipalities around the country are moving away from the “smart city” label, as was presented in April 2019, instead folding those priorities under a city innovation umbrella, which also includes the digital information network presented in December 2019.

The resident survey revealed a number of priorities such as online access to paying bills, events, online permitting, safety alerts, library happenings and updates on Capital Improvement Program projects.

Graham said 85% of residents access those services via mobile device, 84% by desktop computer, 80% on their phone and 74% in person. In total, 70% of residents said city services were accessible online.

The city’s digital transformation also maintains the analog models, but in a more streamlined manner, Graham said. Also, a new city app will be deployed later this year.

As for the roadmap, he said there are several master plans and projects already completed under the new plan. For example, the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) master plan, the Carlsbad Connector, the AARP age-friendly cities agreement and December’s digital information network are plans completed under the digital transformation, Graham said.

Another bonus is public safety, where the potential for the new app includes updates of traffic and weather.

“I think this is what we hired you on to do,” Councilman Keith Blackburn said.

The roadmap will also allow for the city to find missing interconnections between different master plans and give the council a breathable document easily amendable rather than a static plan, Graham said.