Councilor Tito Jackson Looks to Bring Innovative Entrepreneurs Into City Hall

He's trying to launch an "entrepreneur-in-residence" program to add an outside eye to the inner workings of municipal government.

Image via Councilor Tito Jackson

Image via Councilor Tito Jackson

Since he took office five months ago, Mayor Marty Walsh’s administration has been rolling out programs at City Hall to make the lives of residents easier. Officials plan on introducing mobile-parking payment systems, have allowed for online dog licensing, and even maximized technology during the snow and ice season to ensure the roads and sidewalks were cleared at all times.

But City Councilor Tito Jackson believes it can never hurt to add an extra set of eyes, an intuitive brain, and an outside perspective to the mix to help continue shaping municipal government operations, while at the same time strengthening the relationship between elected officials and the people who call the city home. “I want to continue to push the envelope and bring additional innovative thought leaders into government to look at processes and procedures, and the way that we do things,” Jackson said. “It’s about serving people in the most effective way.”

This week Jackson submitted a proposal during a City Council hearing to create an “entrepreneur-in-residence” position at City Hall, in hopes of roping in an industry professional from the vast pool of thinkers working in Boston, and expand on current projects in departments like New Urban Mechanics. He said the position could lead to the creation of additional tech-savvy solutions to how government officials address constituent needs.  “I want someone who will change the way in which we think. City government can revolutionize how we do things in terms of interacting with people,” Jackson said. “There’s a whole array of things we could look at [within City Hall] that would allow us to make good connections with the great talent we have within the community.”

According to Jackson’s plan, the in-house innovator would work closely with city staff in various departments and pitch projects that could solve simple, everyday problems using available technology. Jackson said ideally this person would come up with creative applications that address issues in the education, healthcare, transportation, and public safety sectors. “I would want new applications, more hackathons—someone who could take a fundamental look at the way in which we do specific things in the city,” he said. “I’d love to have this person—or people—involved in conversation around planning, around land use and affordable housing, or middle income housing, issues around public safety, technology, payments, all of those areas. We need to put new eyes and new ideas on every aspect of how we do government.”

The idea for an in-house entrepreneurial position bloomed from operations currently underway in cities like Los Angeles and New York. With Boston on the forefront of some of the most technological advances the country has to offer, Jackson felt the city should be not only part of the pack, but leading the way. “Perfect candidate would be someone from the innovation sector, someone committed to the city. They have to love Boston, and having that passion for the city, and wanting to share that talent and who is a leader in their particular industry,” he said, adding that cities with similar programs in place have come up with solutions to permitting issues, and made more online payment options available to residents.

Jackson’s plan was voted out and sent to a special committee this week, where it will be discussed during a public hearing before going back to the full City Council for approval. He filed a similar proposal to introduce an entrepreneurial education program in the city’s elementary, middle, and high schools.