Bill Schrier: If I Were Mayor

Seattle's former Chief Technology Officer wants smart tech and a Chief Operating Officer to shape up Seattle's flabby bureaucracy.
Crosscut archive image.

William Schrier

Seattle's former Chief Technology Officer wants smart tech and a Chief Operating Officer to shape up Seattle's flabby bureaucracy.

If I were Mayor of Seattle, what three actions would I take immediately to improve City government and improve quality of life for the people living and working in Seattle?

First, I'd appoint a Chief Innovation Officer (CInO) to reach out to the technology and start-up communities in Seattle, harnessing their ideas and technologies for use in City government. The outreach opportunities here are endless, from huge companies like Microsoft which has a wide variety of innovative software solutions, to smaller companies like Cozi (an app and website that helps organize family life) and Prosodic (smarter use of social media). Taking advantage of these technologies will help to build the city's economy and promote locally developed products. The CInO would also find innovative ways to cut through the bureaucracy entrenched in City departments, and help them find new ways to deliver better, cheaper, faster service.

The second thing I'd do as mayor is hire a COO, a Chief Operating Officer.  

Mayors, by design, are the “outside” face of government. They need to be actively working with community groups, businesses and the wide variety of constituents the City serves. But City government is also a giant “company” with 11,000 employees operating a number of sprawling City departments. These departments — utilities, public safety, parks, etc. — are businesses that operate very independently, each supporting its own motor pools, facilities, information technology and other internal services that often duplicate and overlap each other. This duplication wastes millions of dollars a year. The City needs a strong COO to break down the walls between City departments.

Finally, the Mayor needs to vastly improve the way City government interacts with its constituents. 

When the City seeks input on proposed policy and ordinances it usually holds public meetings or committee hearings. That approach has major shortcomings.

First, only the NIMBY’s (“not in my backyard” crowd) show up to protest whatever proposal is being discussed, which turns the public meetings into a marathon of short, disjointed speeches by one citizen after another. Today we have technologies that offer far more efficient ways to get input and don’t require people to come to a meeting and wait hours for their turn at the microphone. The City should take advantage of video conferencing, Facebook apps, and cool locally developed technologies like Ideascale (for crowdsourcing ideas) and Living Voters’ Guide (for vetting ideas and improving them). 

We live in a phenomenal City in a beautiful natural environment and a stimulating hub of technology and innovation. But too often our City government operates in a traditional, bureaucratic, siloed “business as usual” fashion. With this mayoral campaign, let’s shake that up.



Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors

Bill Schrier

Bill Schrier

Bill Schrier retired in 2012 as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for the City of Seattle. During his nine-year tenure, he directed information technology operations and policy, reporting directly to Mayors Greg Nickels and Mike McGinn. Bill is presently a senior policy advisor to the Chief Information Officer of the State of Washington. He lives in West Seattle with his wife Kathy and granddaughter Elizabeth.