Emanuel launches online forum 'CHIdeas' to engage citizens

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel is starting an online community forum to engage directly with Chicago's residents and business owners.

In a city of more than two million, the chance to sit down and talk about important issues is rare. The chance to sound off to city officials directly may not be an option for everyone, but a new website opens that possibility to anyone with a computer or smartphone. Chideas.org went live on Thursday.

"The technology allows to create that community forum 24-7, throughout the process, all year round," said Emanuel.

Emanuel says he will respond directly to some of the comments, and have city commissioners do the same.

"These conversations happen all the time. i want a place where we can have the community narrative and conversation to not just be happening around budget time," said Emanuel.

As the new site doesn't have any comments yet, we asked some of our viewers for their ideas and questions for the mayor. There were many comments about the need to do a better job teaching kids skills they will need in the real world and novel ideas like using old schools or abandoned homes as training grounds for the future tradesman & woman.

"That can give us new ways of thinking about it a new approach," said Emanuel. "This is another way of creating a space across the city for people who have ideas to help strengthen our city."

We also had several questions about parking meters, like why not return many streets to free parking? The mayor says he negotiated free Sundays, but is stuck with an existing contract.

"Trying to make a little lemonade out of a big bad lemon," said Emanuel.

Chideas.org will change topics each month. This month, it's minimum wage, early childhood learning, libraries and public art. For those who don't get a personal audience, the next best thing may be a few minutes to discuss solutions with the mayor on his iPad.

Getting the feedback is a start, but really hearing the ideas and bringing them to life will take more than a website.
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