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Open Cleveland Statement for Racial Justice by The Open Cleveland Team

9 July 2020

Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.” As a community of volunteers with technology and civic data in the Cleveland area, we reiterate that Black Lives Matter, and that we will fight against racism and white supremacy. We share the demands Black members of our community and allies have made for generations for justice.

The needless deaths of George Floyd, Desmond Franklin, Tamir Rice, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and numerous other Black Americans is abhorrent and continues a pattern of abuse and racism sanctioned by public policy and the willingness of bystanders, elected leaders, and citizens to allow injustice to continue unchecked. Violence against Black members of our community is the most blatant and horrifying manifestation of white supremacy, we understand that it is not the only problem and that technology and open data can be used to further white supremacy.

Technology and open data are inherently political. How a technology is designed and used and what civic data - quantitative data that is usually managed by a local government that describes a government’s function - lengths of sentences, road information, and more. - is collected, how it’s organized, how it is shared, and how it is used is critical and should be determined before it is made. The technology that we build upon and data that we use and share can be used for harm regardless of our intentions. This also applies to our local government.

We aim to put our skills and experience to work to dismantle all forms of white supremacy, in government and beyond. These recent events remind us of our responsibility to take a more active role in both directly dismantling the systems that have continued to oppress members of our community, and in supporting the organizations and leaders who have been working for generations to carry out this vital work.

For organizations in Cleveland leading in this fight, please know that these are not empty words: starting immediately, our brigade can continually improve to serve our community and the cause of justice better. We understand that it is our responsibility to educate ourselves and examine our own actions, and then strive to meaningfully partner with and support the people who have been doing this work for longer than we have. If our experience and skills can be helpful to your organization, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will be happy to talk with you about how we can assist on all things tech-related.

For allies in the Cleveland area who wish to contribute to locally based organizations that fight against racism, we encourage you to get to know and support including and not limited to:

For information on Code for America’s (our partner affiliate) work on reforming the criminal justice system and improving the equality of access to government programs, read the statement by CEO Amanda Renteria and Open Cleveland’s Code of Conduct that strives to create anti-racist environment for our attendees.

Asking to hold virtual council meetings, increase internet & legislative access in Cleveland during COVID-19 by Will Skora

19 May 2020

The following is a letter that we sent to Cleveland City Council on April 27, 2020. As of this writing on May 19, 2020, the Cleveland City Council, which typically meets on a weekly basis on Monday evenings, has not met since March 23, 2020.

Dear Councilperson:

As our community comes together to respond to the growing threat of COVID-19, we applaud your action to provide updated public health information to protect our community. However, we understand that in a time of crisis, it is too easy to let commitments to transparency and accountability fall by the wayside. We are writing to express our hope that the City of Cleveland, and in particular its elected legislators, commits to maintaining and expanding transparency in government through the COVID-19 crisis.

We respectfully ask the following:

  • Commitment to transparency and accessibility in the virtual environment

We ask that the City Council will act quickly to provide a virtual option for residents who wish to exercise their civic responsibilities without endangering their health. To this end, we respectfully ask that all meetings of the full City Council be streamed live, and a mechanism be developed for the public to provide comment in meetings that would ordinarily have a public comment function. We also ask that the City Council commit to making recordings of all livestreamed public city council meetings available in a public archive. That council hasn’t formally met as a group since March 23rd is disappointing and it can do better.

  • Prioritize internet access

We are aware that the increasing virtualization of public forums under social distancing policies disadvantages people without reliable access to the internet at home. We hope that as the City Council debates its response to the crisis, it will continue to work to address our city’s ‘digital divide,’ including livestreams and recordings as discussed above, available to our neighbors who do not currently have reliable internet access.

  • Enable the Legistar API for City Council legislative records

As City Council’s decisions may have life-or-death consequences in this crisis, we believe that it is more important than ever for citizens to have access to legislative information and meetings so that they can be informed of upcoming legislative actions, and stay informed on decisions made on their behalf. Although the city’s current online legislative management offers access through Legistar (https://cityofcleveland.legistar.com), the City of Cleveland does not currently provide open API access to Council records through the Legistar API. Other US cities, including Philadelphia, New York City, and Chicago, have opened their Legistar API for legislative information as a standard practice to promote transparency and accountability, enabling the public to create different tools to understand and share the city’s legislative updates through user-friendly websites like Councilmatic (http://councilmatic.org) or automated twitter accounts (https://twitter.com/chibillbot) that share legislative updates in residents’ social media feeds. Especially now that citizens are unable to participate in government in person during the COVID-19 crisis, we hope that our City Council will take all steps possible to make City Council records easy to access online. We respectfully request that the City of Cleveland enable the Legistar API for the City Council’s Legistar instance.

We understand that there are multiple competing priorities at hand in the response to this or any crisis, but we hope that the Cleveland City Council will share our concern that transparency and accessibility is not lost as we take drastic measures to protect public health. It is our hope that on this issue as well as many others, Cleveland emerges from the COVID-19 crisis not only healthy, but stronger for this experience.

As ever, please know that the technology community of Cleveland is full of talented professionals more than willing to donate their time and expertise as appropriate to assist in these efforts.

We are Open Cleveland, Cleveland’s Code For America brigade, a group of software programmers, designers, and concerned residents working to improve our local government and community through open civic data and technology. Learn more about us at https://opencleveland.org and what we’ve created like https://clevelandlots.org that enable Cleveland residents to apply for a sideyard expansion through an online application.

Thank you for your leadership on these issues, and we look forward to attending our City council meetings virtually soon.

Sincerely,

Open Cleveland

A Guide to Local Cleveland Open Data by Will Skora

22 September 2017

A Guide to Local Cleveland Open Data

What is open civic data? Open Civic Data (generally just referred as Open Data) is quantative data about a municipality’s functions, qualities, services, its people, and physical infrastructure. The Sunlight Foundation and Open Knowledge International’s Open Data Handbook are two sources that explain more.

If you want to do anything useful with the data, the data has to be “open”: able to be obtained freely and in bulk (no saving a file six hundred times) , “machine-readable” - in a file format that is friendly to work with and whose content can be deciphered by computer programs easily and to be legally able to use and share with minimal or no restrictions.

When we want data about our city, where do we start? First, ASK the agency that you think would have the data (Advice on that in a later post).

The US Census is a comprehensive source of data about our city specifically on our population and demographics.

Cities across the USA have dedicated websites (data portals). Unfortunately, Cleveland doesn’t have one. In this absence, different entities have aggregated or collected this data or perhaps the govt agency that produces or acts as a steward for this data may publish it themselves.

geospatial/geographic:

https://github.com/skorasaurus/cleboundaries

  • collection of spatial boundaries that Will Skora from Open Cleveland manually georeferenced or individually obtained; City of Cleveland’s police districts, wards, landmark districts, neighborhood boundaries.

https://github.com/skorasaurus/dtparking

  • downtown Cleveland car parking available to the public; Will Skora from Open Cleveland manually surveyed this and keeps it relatively updated. Does not include parking meters.

Cuyahoga County Open Data

http://data-cuyahoga.opendata.arcgis.com/

  • Cuyahoga County geospatial data (roads, railroads, addresses, parcels; natural resources like streams)

NeoCando

http://neocando.case.edu/

  • Demographics, crime, property data, census for cuyahoga county; also property transactions; the most comprehensive source of civic data in Cleveland/Cuyahoga County
  • Requires registration

Transportation:

RTA

http://www.riderta.com/developers

  • Bus and subway routes and locations of stops; in GTFS format;

Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA)

http://gis.noaca.org/Portal/

  • Data on Transportation, Freight on highways, Bicycle Infrastructure, and Urban Planning
  • Data Accessible by clicking on pie-chart icon on right side of screen

Elections:

Cuyahoga County Board of Elections

http://boe.cuyahogacounty.us

  • Campaign finance reports available in PDF format

Health:

Health Data Matters

http://www.healthdatamatters.org

  • Health data for Cleveland and Cuyahoga county

Other:

Cleveland’s Open Data Census

http://us-cities.survey.okfn.org/place/cleveland

  • A census describing the status of assorted public datasets in municipalities across the United States and where Cleveland ranks

For all of Ohio:

Ohio Geographically Referenced Information Program (OGRIP)

http://ogrip.oit.ohio.gov

  • State-wide geographic data (roads, railroads, addresses, parcels)
  • May not be the most up to date, search the particular county’s GIS website for an updated data set.

National:

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

https://data.noaa.gov/onestop/#/

  • Weather, climate, satellites, fisheries, coasts, and oceans

Former National Climatic Data Center (NCDC)

https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/

  • Climate and historical weather data and information
  • Now affiliated with NOAA

Tips:

Still unsure where it is or can’t find it?

  • Ask us by opencleveland@gmail.com or on twitter @opencleveland and we'll try put you in touch with who has it.
  • ask your local librarian at your local public library. :)

We’ll try to keep this up to date and encourage you to share by email (opencleveland@gmail.com)

Next step: How to ask for the data if it’s not publicly available.

April and May 2017 News for Open Cleveland by Will Skora

17 May 2017

April and May has been a busy time for Open Cleveland and our collaborative partners here in Cleveland. Here’s what happening and where we’re going.

GCRTA, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, released data for the real-time locations of their buses and trains last week!

For the first time, this includes the locations of buses and rapids as they move! The publication is the result of multiple years of efforts from RTA and encouragement by Open Cleveland and other advocates.

Interested in delving into RTA’s data? Want to use it to improve service, make it easier for fellow Clevelanders to use the RTA, analyze if RTA buses arrive on schedule, measure coverage and frequency, or any other ideas with the data?

Come to our next hack night on Wednesday, May 24th, at 6:00 p.m.

Need inspiration for how the RTA transit data can be used? The awesome-transit guide has plenty of examples. The real-time bus data is in the GTFS-RT specification.

This week, Will S. will be representing Open Cleveland and fellow Open Cleveland brigader April U. will be representing The Center on Urban Poverty Center & Neighborhood Development at the NNIP conference in Baltimore.

Recap: CMHA, the area public housing authority, and Digital C held a hackathon at CSU on April 7 & 8th. It focused on helping Clevelanders in the Housing Choice Voucher program better select well-resourced neighborhoods that meet their needs.

Recap: DataDaysCLE, our inaugural three-day conference on data in Cleveland, was a success thanks to all of our partners (listed below). Here’s a great synopsis and video of DataDaysCLE by Dan Hansen.

Lastly, Open Cleveland has been collaborating with Hack Cleveland, Open NEO, Digital C, Case’s Urban Poverty Center, Cleveland Co-Lab and Cleveland City Councilman Brian Cummins on events including Transparency Camp and DataDaysCLE over the past year.

Collectively called the Cleveland Open Data & Civic Tech Collaborative, our organizations have been meeting to learn if and how we should formally organize and establish goals, and continue collaborating around our shared interests of utilizing data and technology for the public good.

How to stay in touch:

http://www.meetup.com/open-cleveland - Meetup group where our meetings and events are scheduled

https://opencleveland.slack.com - Slack channel where Open Cleveland brigaders chat in between meetings, sharing happen in between meetings (invite required. need an invite? email opencleveland at gmail dot com)

https://twitter.com/opencleveland

https://github.com/opencleveland - our code repository

March 15th 2017 Meeting recap by Will

29 March 2017

Here’s our notes from our most recent meeting/hack night on March 15, 2017.

What we’re doing/Did:

We’re processing the Campaign Finance Contributions of Cuyhoaga County into open, machine-readable format.

These campaign contributions received by the politician can be used by the politican for their next election or re-election campaign including but not limited to: buying advertisements, purchase food for campaign and hiring consultants, Campaign Finance contributions (and expenditures) to politicians in Cuyahoga County are available However, they are not machine-readable and greatly impedes any analysis and research.

At our meeting on the 15th, we:

  1. OCR’ed the text from the PDFs using Acrobat,
  2. used Tabula (http://tabula.technology/) to extract the text from the PDFs and transformed them into CSV files,
  3. then uploaded the CSVs into google sheets which is flexible (and machine-readable), easily viewable, and
  4. lastly, reviewed each year’s data with the original PDFs, correcting any spelling mistakes or formatting errors that were introduced in the ETL process.

With the data in machine-readable format, You can begin to analyze and research the campaign contributions. Questions that can be answered with the data: How many people who live outside of Cleveland gave money to a particular politician ? Who are the biggest campaign contributors? How many PACs have given him money? Where do most of his donations come from? the west side? the south side? east side?

Frank Jackson’s 2013-2016 Campaign Finance Contributions in Machine Readable format:

2013 Campaign Finance Contributions for Frank Jackson (does not include 2013_F_Jackson_SemiAnnual.pdf)

2014 Campaign Finance Contributions for Frank Jackson

2015 Campaign Finance Contributions for Frank Jackson

2016 Campaign Finance Contributions for Frank Jackson

Want to help :

  1. Email us at opencleveland@gmail.com

You http://boe.cuyahogacounty.us/en-US/campaign-finance-reports.aspx

Thanks to our this meeting’s participants - Ron J, Kevin, Rob, and Will for assisting in this process!

Additional campaign contributions to Cuyahoga county politicians are available at the Cuyahoga County board of elections

Other news, data sources: Ron J has access to data from the 29 rain stations that record how much rain falls (not sure if they also collect the winter precipitation) that’s collected by the NEO Sewer District suggested we ask the NEO Sewer District to request the data.

http://www.meetup.com/open-cleveland - Meetup group where our meetings are scheduled.

https://opencleveland.slack.com - Slack slack where our discussions happen in between meetings (need an invite? email opencleveland at gmail dot com)

https://github.com/orgs/opencleveland - code repository

Recap of Transparency Camp 2016 in Cleveland! by Will and Anastasia

25 October 2016

Transparency Camp, the national conference on government transparency, open data, and civic technology, hosted by the Sunlight Foundation at the Cleveland Public Library was on October 14-15th. Over 100 attendees from across the country and around the world shared their best practices and experiences on using open data, civic technology, and government transparency to improve government, particularly on state and local issues. TCamp and its topic-focused sessions provided discussing, generating ideas, spontaneous collaboration, and planting the seeds of these ideas into actions within our communities.

As Bill Hunt from Sunlight exhorted, we’re writing down and and sharing it!

Here’s what emerged in Cleveland:

The Closed Public Square Cost Calculator

A few of the Open Cleveland brigaders have been thinking about how to demonstrate the negative effects of closing the portion of Superior Ave through Public Square to bus traffic since its reopening in July. The closing delays buses, wasting fuel and time, even though RTA buses were planned to exclusively use this road.

The Cost Calculator displays the cost of the closing.

Open Traffic Counting

This project started as a TCAMP session exploring how data collected through an open-source traffic counter (courtesy of http://tomorrow-lab.com/product23 ) could be used to advocate for slower streets. After addressing a few issues in the software, they were able to get a working model up and running at Transparency Camp. Now the group has turned its focus to deploying these counters across Cleveland.

Currently, they’re running experiments to validate and fine-tune vehicle counting and speed detection. Next, they hope to add estimation of vehicle types (cars, semis, pedestrians) to the codebase and create a user guide to help less tech-savvy people assemble counters, and upload their data to a public repository.

Eventually, the group hopes to make ready-to-use counters available through local libraries and community organizations, and install a number of permanent counters which can automatically collect and submit data.

If you’re interested in helping or looking for more information, contact Josh Kruszynski or John McGovern.

Improve the transparency of Cleveland City Council:

A working group of City of Cleveland Councilman Brian Cummins and residnets are aking sure that the information about City Council meetings and activities of city councilmembers is available to the public in a timely manner. This group was created inside a session at TCAMP.

This session’s notes are available (here)https://docs.google.com/document/d/1AAlBrzr5XcK5ijwp6VRc3wAFHhugzOIhU6l01AuNQNM/edit

This working group will meet next during our next meeting/hack night on Thursday, Nov. 3rd.

For notes on other sessions, check out the Tcamp Schedule and click on the specific sessions for the notes. Also, TCAMP Photos are here from Day One and Day Two

Besides these initiatives, there were the intangible impact and lessons:

** Relationships built among us and fellow attendees across different sectors across the country;

** Practices on how to sustain our brigades and local civic tech ecosystems/scenes

** Knowledge and skill sharing among attendees in and out of the sessions

** Awareness of our organization and efforts among the greater community

** Awareness of what we need to do better (reach more people out even further in advance; continue to build stronger relationships with the greater community: government employees, residents, and more)

Thank you to:

Sunlight Foundation

all sponsors (The Cleveland Foundation, Leandog, Socrata, Microsoft, the Beekeeper Group, and Amazon Web Services),

our community partners (the Cleveland Public Library, Hack Cleveland, Open NEO, Cleveland Global Shapers)

Councilman Brian Cummins and his staff assistant Taylor Henschel

All Attendees and anyone else who helped make TCAMP a success

As Will Tarter, TCAMP participant, said (he was not the first to say, nor the last), (in the Cleveland Civic Tech, open data, open govt scene(s)), the best is yet to come.

  • Will Skora & Anastasia Diamond-Ortiz, Open Cleveland Co-Captains

Opening the City Council Records by Will Skora

17 March 2016

Open Cleveland is excited to announce that we have been named the winner in OneCommunity’s Data Curation Challenge!

Our project, drocer, is creating a searchable archive of The City Record, a weekly digest of Cleveland City Council’s activities including proposals and votes of legislation, bid announcements for city contracts, Public Notices, Board of Zoning Appeals, known as the City Record.

It is currently only published a PDF makes it impossible to search across multiple digests and very difficult to analyze the text.

An overview of drocer is available at: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1bWo-yJD3pR07EaR75p-ksKdHUyiPcyAmGf3h7L9i4Ps/edit#slide=id.p

In recent months, we’ve met with community partners including the Cleveland Public Library, the City Council’s Clerk of Courts, and the City’s Law Department to understand what it will take to bring this tool to the greatest number of Clevelanders, what additional features are needed in a website and how they can get involved, to enable Clevelanders to better engage with their city government and learning about their City Council.

For more tech saavy and curious readers interested in analyzing the raw plain text that we’ve extracted from PDFs, you can view the plain text as well as our code to parse and structurethe raw plain text (still in its infancy) at https://github.com/opencleveland/drocer

Our first step, extracting the raw text from the PDFs is completed!

Next steps include: parsing and structuring the data so that it can be useful to continuing to meet with community partners to

We’ve only started and the best is yet to come.

Anastasia Diamond-Ortiz, Will Skora, Co-Captains, Eamon Johnson and Meaghan Fenelon Drocer contributors and the rest of the Open Cleveland Brigade.

February / March 2015 update by Paul Koepke

11 March 2015

Getting Started In Cleveland

Since this is our first blog post, I’ll do a little history. Open Cleveland was founded in October 2014 with the goal of encouraging open data and helping local governments in Northeast Ohio better serve their residents through technology. We are a Code for America brigade.

It’s been a busy few months since we started up. We’ve been organizing our meetings and events on Meetup. We got our website up and running. We completed an Open Data Census for Cleveland to track how open the City’s data is. We got set up on GitHub and started on a few projects, inculding the Large Lots project

Large Lots is probably our most exciting project at the moment, as it’s seeing the most progress. Large Lots (which will probably get a new name before it goes live) is a website which will help the city of Cleveland Land Bank Program display its parcels for sale and accept applications. It is based on Chicago’s Large Lots website.

On February 20-21 we held Code Across Cleveland as part of Code for America’s Code Across America event. On Friday we held an Open Data Open House at City Hall where city employees could meet some of our members and learn about open data. On Saturday we held a Code Across Cleveland meeting where we introduced new people to open data and our ongoing projects.

We always welcome new members and new ideas. Technical knowledge is not necessary – some of our biggest needs are nontechnical. Join us and help us help governments better serve their residents!