In the late 1990s, Ernie Odierna found himself frustrated at his town's inability to communicate its plans, its successes and even its failures to citizens. The town of Mamaroneck, as Odierna saw it, wasn't leveraging technology to keep citizens informed and aware of community issues.
So in 1999, Odierna, president and co-founder of Com/Peripherals, a local data communications and security VAR, ran for and was elected as a town councilman, a position to which he has been reelected twice since. His day job and public service provide Odierna a unique perspective both on local government and the way technology can improve citizens' lives.
This year he's running for Mamaroneck, N.Y. town supervisor, and Odierna said he hopes if he's elected he can provide better, more open access to local government processes.
Internet access during public hearings is one way to do that, he said, but he also plans to create a searchable database of town meeting minutes on the town's Web site so citizens can access that information quickly and easily.
Odierna said he believes that coordinating data between firefighters, police and the town center records building could help save lives. Firefighters facing a burning building could, he said, pull up building schematics to determine the best entrance and exit points if they had access to a wireless network from their trucks. The police department could benefit from speed control cameras on dangerous roads, as well as security and video monitoring of buildings, he said.
"There's no reason local governments can't pick up on these technologies," Odierna said, "It's not like we're trying to go to the moon!"
Of course, in setting up a municipal wireless network, one of the major issues is cost, according to Esme Vos, founder of Muniwireless.com, a municipal wireless news and information portal.
Odierna said he believes that won't be an obstacle. He wants to set up a technology advisory board that would accept and evaluate bids from other local VARs—Com/Peripherals is not permitted to bid for ethical reasons—which will help local businesses flourish at the same time he's helping Mamaroneck citizens.
And Odierna says his platform won't just help the tech-savvy among his constituents. He said he believes that technology can also help those who aren't familiar with the Internet, wireless networks or other innovations. He also plans to incorporate an enhanced voice recognition capability within the town center's administrative building to help route callers quickly and efficiently to the correct department. "We can't ignore the people that aren't totally immersed in technology. We have to bring it down to their level and help them understand the personal benefits," he said.
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