Tbilisi’s new petition website a positive step
On July 4, the Tbilisi Mayor’s Office launched ChemiTbilisi.com (My Tbilisi), a website where Tbilisi residents can create petitions to request action by city authorities. Petitions are assigned an expiration date and a threshold number of signatures; presumably, if the signature threshold is reached before the expiration date, the city will take action on the petition.
Currently, there are about a dozen petitions on the website, most with fewer than 100 signatures. Topics range from requests for installation of traffic lights, to better infrastructure for people with disabilities.
TI Georgia staff members tested the site by registering for an account and completing the steps necessary to create a petition. We found the site impressively well designed and easy to use; registration is quick and easy, and ChemiTbilisi takes cues from other petition websites, such as the Obama Administration’s We the People, by showing the names of those people who have already signed the petition. It is also easy for users to upload photos and videos promoting their petition, and to share petitions using Facebook, Twitter, and email.
We believe that ChemiTbilisi is a very positive step by the Tbilisi Mayor’s Office in encouraging citizen engagement and government accountability. Our own website, ChemiKucha.ge, launched in March 2011, showed that Tbilisi’s residents are interested in becoming more involved in making Tbilisi a better place to live. We hope that the Tbilisi authorities will be responsive and encouraging toward petitions posted on ChemiTbilisi, and that the site will grow rapidly.
ChemiTbilisi is an excellent first step, but as usual, we have some suggestions for improvement. It is not clear to us what the criteria are for choosing the number of signatures a petition requires, nor do we know what requirements the Mayor’s Office has set for itself when responding to petitions, or how responses will be tracked. For example, is there a deadline for the Mayor’s Office to provide an initial response, after a petition has met the signature threshold? We encourage the Mayor’s Office to be clear about these rules so that Tbilisi’s residents know what to expect when they create or sign a petition using ChemiTbilisi.