Of all the babies born in Sonoma County in 2014, more parents chose Emma and Logan for their newborns’ names than any others.
The most popular baby names in Sonoma County are just one tidbit of information made available under a new county website that gives the public access to a host of databases, tracking such things as restaurant and brewery inspections, law enforcement incidents and annual births. Last year, for example, 5,315 babies were born in the county.
Dubbed SoCo Data, the new site, unveiled this month, is aimed at making a range of routine data more available to the public.
“This is a way citizens can increase their connectivity with government,” Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Susan Gorin said about the site.
In addition to the online data portal (available at data.sonomacounty.ca.gov), county officials this week launched a new smartphone application that allows residents to report problems such as potholes or downed trees and power lines, as well as pay property tax bills and check the status of flights at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport.
The app, available for download on both Apple and Android devices, is called SoCo Report It.
In a report to the Board of Supervisors last week, officials encouraged widespread use of the new mobile tool while cautioning residents not to expect immediate results.
“With this, people can report issues … and get immediate feedback,” said Susan Klassen, director of Transportation and Public Works. “With some requests … there’s going to be a longer time frame, but the good part of this is that it initiates our ability to have a conversation with them.”
Users of the smartphone app can create an account name and password to send in requests or complaints and receive updates. There is also an option to log in using Facebook. People can use the app without logging in, but they won’t be able to track the progress of their complaints. Requests can also be logged through the SoCo Report It website.
The app allows people to submit photos, and it geocodes requests so county officials can locate specific issues.
“Users will be able to follow different issues and receive updates,” Klassen said.
Other tools built into the app include the ability to reserve camping sites at Sonoma County regional parks, pay for some building permits and report problems such as erosion along waterways.
The county is also gathering other data sets for the online portal, including maps showing sea level rise, county budget information by department and a detailed breakdown of county employee salaries and benefits.
Supervisor Efren Carrillo questioned the safety of user information submitted through the interface, such as sensitive payment information. County officials said such information will be protected in a third-party payment system and will not be retained by the county.
“I’m hopeful we’ll be able to use this tool to get more community feedback,” Carrillo said.
At the same time, Carrillo noted, many residents in the county still lack broadband Internet access, especially in parts of the west county.
Sonoma County’s Information Systems Department picked up the initial cost of about $100,000 for the mobile app and online data portal. Officials also spent about $25,000 of the county’s portion of state gas tax revenue to fund part of the mobile application. Ongoing costs — roughly $5,000 per year — are expected to be split between various county departments.