Midtown Raleigh News

City will provide info via email, text alerts

Residents can soon sign up for email and text alerts from the city to learn about street closures, construction projects and public meetings specific to their areas of town.

The free service, called MyRaleigh Subscriptions, is modeled after similar programs in Cary and Charlotte that allow people to choose topics they care about, said Jonathan Minter, Raleigh’s chief technology officer.

Registration will be available on the city website, RaleighNC.gov, beginning later this month. An exact date for the launch has not been set.

Alerts on upcoming road races are likely to be a popular option, city officials say. Neighbors near Hillsborough Street and downtown have complained about street closures for charity races.

Organizers for larger events, such as the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, do a good job of blanketing neighborhoods with door hangers and fliers, said Joe Boisvert, president of the University Park homeowners association near N.C. State University.

But small events sometimes catch neighbors by surprise.

“What we find with some of the events that are not as well-organized, this is one of the things that falls through the gap,” Boisvert said.

Raleigh, like many city governments, universities and public institutions, has sought to step up communication with residents through the use of technology.

Mayor Nancy McFarlane formed a new City Council committee to explore tech-savvy innovation and provide oversight of the city’s technology programs.

“In distributing public information, it’s important to meet people where they are with what they find to be relevant,” said Councilman Bonner Gaylord, chairman of the new panel.

This month, the city pledged to become an open-source government by using systems that provide open access to data.

Currently, residents can sign up for e-newsletters and announcements, but each city department maintains its own system, leaving the public with a hodgepodge of choices.

“Our goal is to provide a single place,” Minter said.

The new program, which groups users by ZIP code, comes through a $28,500, one-year contract with GovDelivery, a company that bills itself as a leading provider of government-to-citizen communication solutions.

The City Council will decide in a year whether to continue.

A one-stop menu would be more convenient than having to navigate through multiple pages and registrations, said Boisvert, of University Park.

“One of the things concerned citizens want to see is user-friendly information and services,” he said. “This certainly has the potential to be that.”