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.”
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….
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 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.
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: 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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
Apparently local governments aren’t conversant with accessibility rules. “A recent survey conducted by Vision, an El Segundo, California-based firm that creates web tools for the public sector, found that 89 percent of the 140 government respondents had moderate, weak or no knowledge whatsoever of federal accessibility requirements.”
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?”