Lewis Griswold

GRISWOLD: Visalia launches mobile app as cities go digital

Visalia residents can now connect with the city the 21st century way — via cell phone app.

The city appears to be a trendsetter in launching its app late last month.

Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are overtaking desktop computers in accessing the Internet, and the software industry believes most cities will one day have an app like Visalia’s, said Jake Brenner, director of marketing at Civica software company, which designed the city’s app.

“It brings an image to the city — that the city is cutting edge,” he said. “They’re advancing the community connection.”

The VisaliaMobile app is free from the iTunes App Store and works on Apple’s iOS devices and Android smartphones and tablets.

I downloaded the VisaliaMobile app with no problem.

The icon is attractive, showing both the city logo and the word “Mobile” in a stylish cursive against a light beige background.

I launched the icon and examined the main menu, which has nine touch icons in a tic-tac-toe format: Visalia Works, News, Events ... City Contacts, FAQs, Help ... My Visalia, My Account and Website.

The marquee item on the menu is Visalia Works, which allows residents to interact with the city, such as registering a pet for an animal license, said Nancy Loliva, city spokeswoman and leader of the staff team that worked with the software company.

“Everything is designed to fit the phone,” she said.

After launching the icon, a prompt asks the user to log in or create an account. I already had an account from a previous city Internet e-newsletter sign-up but had forgotten my password.

The Forgot Your Password function seemed not to be responding, so I followed a Help tip to use the “My Visalia” widget at the city’s website to request a new password. Voila! — a new password was sent to my email and I successfully signed in.

So what good things await?

After starting the Visalia Works icon, the user selects “New Request,” chooses a city department — Animal Services, City Clerk, Fire, General, Solid Waste or Streets — and selects a form to fill out and submit electronically.

Currently, there are 32 request forms.

For instance, someone can report graffiti and — this being the age of the smartphone — submit a photo with it. A prompt asks permission to include the GPS location as well.

Other forms let residents request for a resolution or proclamation from the Visalia City Council; report fire hazards on private property and send a photo of the problem; report a damaged trash can; report a pothole and send a photo of the pothole; report debris in the street and send a photo; etc.

After submitting it, the city will reply via email, telephone or U.S. mail. Residents also may choose “I do not want to be contacted.”

Most icons don’t require a log-in and connect to information such as watering rules, public meeting time and place, department phone numbers, announcements and the city website as newly designed for mobile devices.

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: Historian Victor Davis Hanson will discuss the California drought as guest speaker for the Visalia Economic Development Corporation’s annual meeting 7 a.m. April 22, at The Marriott in Visalia.

His presentation, “A Tale of Four Droughts,” will focus on the economic impacts of California’s water management policy. The event is open to the public.

Hanson is a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution focusing on classics and military history, author of books, reviews and articles, and writer of a nationally syndicated column that appears Sundays in The Bee.

He continues to run the family raisin farm in Selma.

Cost, including breakfast: $35 nonmembers, $40 at the door. Information: Julie Ebert, jebert@thelockwoodagency.net.