DANBURY -- The city of the future might have sensors perched like birds on every street corner to dim the lights when no one is around and send out alerts when a parking spot opens or a garbage can is full.

It might have solar panels on every roof and wind turbines on Interstate 84.

But to meet the challenges of the next decade, to serve a growing population with a workforce the city can't afford to increase, the real change will have to be in the way city employees work. They will have to make up for their limited numbers with efficiency, innovation and resourcefulness.

That is the vision of Mark Boughton, the city's longest-serving mayor, who says the one chance Danbury has to stay on top of its challenges is to remake the government.

"We know we are not going to be able to add more staff, but we are going to have more residents and just as many services, if not more," the seven-term Republican said. "There really is no money anywhere and there is no way to derive more money, so we have to be much more agile in the future if we want to keep all the plates spinning on the sticks."

Agility is not a euphemism for laying off any of the city's 560 employees, he says.

But agility is a synonym for change that could include the consolidation of duplicative departments for the city and the school system, the reorganization of city departments into flexible teams and the use of technology to improve transparency and citizen involvement.

For example, more departments might come to resemble the city's Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team (UNIT), a special blight-fighting crew that collaborates with police and zoning enforcement to solve problems that would otherwise fall through the cracks. Or the city could follow the example set by Louisville, Ky., where the government posts a report card on its progress filling potholes, even when the grades are poor.

The idea is to infuse a spirit of freedom and flexibility into the workday, Boughton said.

"It used to be `I only cut Field 2 -- that is all I ever cut -- I have been doing it for 20 years,' " Boughton said. "Now it has to be `I cut Field 2, I also drive a plow truck, I also fill potholes, I also rake the infields.' The team approach is what we are going for."

So far, these are just ideas discussed with a consultant hired last year to build the city of the future in Danbury.

Read the full story continued on The News Times >>

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