Boston.gov Goes Open Source

Interesting: Boston.gov is now open-source. “Taking the source code public, a move overseen by the city’s Digital Team, will speed the rate at which the site evolves through the addition of new features developed by local software designers, academic institutions and organizations. The repository is available via GitHub, where coding contributions can be proposed and accepted based on citizens’ needs.”

Tool Lets You Compare Data Points Across US Counties

I love this because I’m a municipal government nerd. A new tool lets you compare data points across all the counties in the United States. “How does your county stack up against the other 3,143 in the U.S. when it comes to per-capita income? What about domestic water use? Or degreed residents? If such questions have ever nagged at you, you’ll be happy to know there’s now an artificial intelligence-based County Benchmarking Engine able to answer them empirically.” This is a huge timesink if you’re a municipal government nerd….

Ars Technica: ACLU exposes Facebook, Twitter for feeding surveillance company user data

Oh gross: ACLU exposes Facebook, Twitter for feeding surveillance company user data. “The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday outed Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for feeding a Chicago-based company their user streams—a feed that was then sold to police agencies for surveillance purposes. After the disclosure, the social media companies said they stopped their data firehouse to Chicago-based Geofeedia. In a blog post, the ACLU said it uncovered the data feeds as part of a public records request campaign of California law enforcement agencies. Geofeedia touts how it helped police track unrest during protests.”

New Resource For Finding High Schools in New York City

New York City has a new online tool for getting information on its high schools. Why does it need this? Because there are over 400 of them! “City schools boss Carmen Fariña on Monday unveiled NYC School Finder, a new, online tool that lets users search and sort through the city’s 440 high schools by keyword, location, size, and more. The tool … is an interactive version of the city’s print high school directory, designed to help families select their top high school choices during the enrollment season leading up to city’s the Dec. 1 deadline for first-round high school applications.” Chalkbeat also had a writeup about this new resource and wasn’t thrilled.

NREL Launches Energy Use Profiles for 23,400 US Cities

This actually happened at the beginning of the month, but I couldn’t get to the NREL press release. Now it works. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has launched an energy profile for each US city. “The City Energy Profile tool, which is available on the State and Local Energy Data website, uses innovative, robust data science methodologies to derive city-specific data for 23,400 cities across the United States. In addition to providing cities with estimates of their electricity and natural gas use and costs by sector, the tool generates energy market profiles that provide data on the fuel types, including alternative fuels, and the fuel economy of vehicles registered in each city.” Use the “tabs” on the side of the information pages to get details for each section of energy use.

Now Available: Database of Municipal Open Data Policies

Now available: a database of open data policies from municipalities across the United States. “A pair of open government groups are teaming up to post dozens of open data policies from cities around the country in a searchable, machine-readable format, giving local leaders a new resource for understanding how other localities are making their information more accessible. The Sunlight Foundation and OpenGov Foundation announced their new collaboration on ‘Open Data Policies Decoded’ last week, unveiling a beta version of the new database with policies from 48 cities posted and ready for analysis.”

Savannah’s CIVIC MAGAZINE Archive Now Available Through Digital Library of Georgia

The city of Savannah Georgia’s Civic Magazine now has a digital archive available at the Digital Library of Georgia. Just to make things as confusing as possible, Civic Magazine is not in fact a magazine; it was a TV program. “According to Luciana Spracher, the library and archives director for the City of Savannah, Research Library and Municipal Archives, ‘Civic Magazine was one of the earliest programs of the City of Savannah’s Government Channel 8, the city’s cable access channel now called SGTV 8, run by the City of Savannah’s Public Information Office (PIO).’” If you’re ever in Georgia I encourage you to visit Savannah; it’s a beautiful city.

The Nightmares of FOIA Requests

If you have any interest at all in government transparency, please read this article about FOIA nightmares. “…almost every reporter on our staff can recite aneurysm-inducing tales of protracted jousting with the public records offices of government agencies. Local, state and federal agencies alike routinely blow through deadlines laid out in law or bend them to ludicrous degrees, stretching out even the simplest requests for years. And they bank on the media’s depleted resources and ability to legally challenge most denials.”

New Site Aggregates Anti-Litter Campaigns

A new Web site hopes to aggregate anti-litter campaigns from around the world. “A new website aiming to showcase the best anti-litter campaigns from around the world has been launched today (6 July) to provide councils and businesses with ‘a source of inspiration to fight litter’. The Neat Streets website was designed by Hubbub, an environmental charity that experiments with ways to interest the public in sustainability issues, and sponsored by the Industry Council for research on Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN).” There are currently over 20 projects on the site and organizations are invited to submit more.

Guardian: Google Wants to Take Over Municipal Transportation Infrastructure

Odd story from The Guardian: Secretive Alphabet division aims to fix public transit in US by shifting control to Google. “Sidewalk Labs, a secretive subsidiary of Alphabet, wants to radically overhaul public parking and transportation in American cities, emails and documents obtained by the Guardian reveal. Its high-tech services, which it calls ‘new superpowers to extend access and mobility’, could make it easier to drive and park in cities and create hybrid public/private transit options that rely heavily on ride-share services such as Uber. But they might also gut traditional bus services and require cities to invest heavily in Google’s own technologies, experts fear.” The Guardian’s tone in this article reads like, “Google wants to take over the world,” but I think it’s more “Google is frantically searching for income streams before the online advertising market implodes completely.”

City of Detroit Launches New Demolition Tracker Map

The city of Detroit has launched a rather astonishing municipal tool: a demolition tracker. “With this new tool, anyone can track the nation’s largest demolition program, which has been awarded more than a quarter-billion dollars by the U.S. Treasury Department and Michigan State Housing Development Authority. In 2014, Detroit took down 4,000 vacant buildings. This year, the city will take down 5,000 dangerous structures and 6,000 more in 2017.”

Digital Archive of THE CITY RECORD in Development

In development: a huge archive of NYC records. “…the National Endowment for the Humanities recently awarded $260,000 to New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering. Its goal is to develop a searchable online portal for 120 years of the City Record, from 1873 to 1998, when the paper went online. In the process, the project will scan and digitize 1,723 volumes—more than a million pages—of New York City records. The City Record, which includes both a print and an online edition, began publishing on June 24, 1873, in response to the Tweed Ring scandal. Just like government agencies do today with the Internet, it was intended to provide transparency.”

Google Wants to Help the Folks in Flint

Google wants to help the people in Flint, Michigan. “Access to clean drinking water is a concern all over the world, but in the United States it’s often a foregone conclusion. That is not the case recently for the residents of Flint, Michigan, many of whom we now know have been exposed to lead in their tap water. It’s a crisis, one to which the American people readily responded by donating water and resources to help alleviate the immediate pain. But the problem won’t go away quickly, and understanding its extent is both challenging and an absolute necessity. Today, Google.org is providing $250,000 to partners in the Flint community to help, with a special focus on a technical solution for understanding and resolving the crisis for the long term.”

Tim Barton: Can Google’s ‘Popular Times’ Feature Change The Way We Plan?

Quick but thoughtful read, especially if you’re into municipalities, infrastructure, or city planning: Can Google’s ‘Popular Times’ Feature Change The Way We Plan? “These days we hear a lot about the potential benefits to planning of ‘big data’. With most people walking, cycling, taking transit or driving around with a smartphone in their pocket, people interested in planning cities can get quite excited about the potential information that becomes available: where are people going; when are people going; how are people going?”