What if there were a site where you could post online reviews for a variety of local government services, similar to review websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp? That’s the concept a local man hopes will become a million dollar idea.
District resident Josh Glasstetter entered his idea for a website called “Civicly” into the Knight Foundation’s “Knight News Challenge.” This year’s competition offers winners a share of $5 million in funding for entries that best promote open government and present ways to improve interaction between citizens and governments.
Civicly would allow residents to leave reviews for government agencies and services such as the DMV, police, utilities, transportation and public schools. There would be opportunities to leave feedback for both specific and larger scale entities. For example, users could write a review about WMATA in general, just Metrorail, or could review a specific Metro stop.
“The idea is to take something that people are familiar with, such as online reviews, and take into new area like government and the public sector,” Glasstetter said.
Although the concept of giving feedback to government entities isn’t unique in and of itself, the innovation comes through with the idea of allowing the public to see every piece of feedback that’s submitted.
Glasstetter, who works for an advocacy group in the District, said he’s focusing first on D.C., Arlington and Alexandria as pilot areas for launching Civicly. Eventually, it would branch out to other parts of the country.
“Arlington is really a perfect place to try something out like this because of the demographics. I think people would naturally take to it. Folks in Arlington and D.C. are already so accustomed to using these kind of tools,” Glassteetter said. “I think this is the right kind of population to launch this.”
With more than 830 News Challenge submissions, Glasstetter acknowledges the odds of winning are slim, but he remains hopeful.
“There’s no way around it, the odds are very steep,” he said. “But my hope is that regardless of what happens for Civicly in the News Challenge, the idea has been seen by a lot of people. Hopefully that by getting this started and putting ourselves into this contest, we’ll be able to take the proposal and discuss it with foundations and other potential supporters.”
Viewers can give feedback on the proposals through Friday (March 29). Semi-finalists should be announced within the next week and will have the opportunity to further refine their proposals, as well as to submit a funding request ranging from $1,000 to $1,000,000. Winners will be notified when judging ends in June.
Valentine’s Day is on Tuesday. To avoid ending up in the dog house, now would be a good time to secure some plans with your loved one. While Arlington offers a plethora of options for celebrating, here are just a few to consider for this weekend and the big day on Tuesday.
- Celebrate with the traditional holiday staples of wine and chocolate at Screwtop Wine Bar (1025 N. Fillmore St). The Sweetheart Tasting on Saturday includes tastes of French and Italian wines and four stations of cheese, chocolates, cupcakes and charcuterie. Participants also get a box of chocolates to take home. Runs from 3:00-5:00 p.m. and costs $49.99 per person (discount for wine club members). Call 703-888-0845 for reservations.
- Aroma Indian Restaurant (4052 Campbell Ave) is hosting a “Love Bites Valentine’s Night” on Saturday, starting at 8:30 p.m. The bash boasts of a DJ, champagne toast, contests and prizes, cash bar and unlimited food with admission. Tickets cost $75 for a couple and $40 for singles.
- Make your date laugh with a night of comedy at Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike). The evening starts with stand-up comedy about relationships, then moves on to a showing of “The Princess Bride.” Tickets are $8. The 7:00 p.m. event is sold out, but there are still spots available for the 9:50 p.m. event. An optional wine tasting is also available for an additional cost.
- Learn how to whip up some romantic dishes at Sur La Table (1101 S. Joyce St) during a cooking class. The “Breakfast in Bed” class runs on Sunday and Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The class is $69.00 per person and can be booked online.
- Take in some romantic tunes while picking out last minute gifts at Market Common (2700 Clarendon Blvd). A guitarist, violinist and accordionist will play classic love songs while strolling from store to store from 2:00-4:00 p.m. on Saturday. Several stores will offer deals or discounts on merchandise.
- Surprise your special someone with a singing telegram. From Sunday through Tuesday, a women’s quartet from the Potomac Harmony Chorus will deliver two songs, a card and a box of candy. Today is the last day to order, by calling 703-764-3896. Options and pricing can be found online.
- Join the Opera Guild of Northern Virginia for its “That’s Amore Valentine’s Day Concert” at 4301 Wilson Blvd. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. for refreshments and shopping, concert starts at 7:00 p.m. Suggested donations for advance tickets and for walkups are available online.
The meeting at Fire Station No. 4 (3121 10th St. N.) is part of Board Chair Mary Hynes’ Participation, Leadership and Civic Engagement (PLACE) initiative. Residents are encouraged to attend the sessions to chat directly with a Board member about any topic. No appointments are necessary.
Board members have said they believe many good ideas for community improvement come from the public, and they want to hear what types of changes residents have in mind.
“Our challenge now is to ensure that Arlington — our home town — continues to tap into our residents’ and County staff’s talents so that Arlington remains a great place for all kinds of folks — even in these increasingly demanding times,” said Hynes.
The sessions will all be from 7:00-9:00 p.m. and will be held at different locations throughout Arlington. No meetings will be held on federal holidays.
The complete listing of planned 2012 dates and locations of Open Door Monday meetings, after the jump.