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A guide for local Cleveland open data by Will Skora

22 September 2017

A guide for 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.


  • 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.

  • 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

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


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



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

Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA)

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


Cuyahoga County Board of Elections

  • Campaign finance reports available in PDF format


Health Data Matters

  • Health data for Cleveland and Cuyahoga county


Cleveland’s Open Data Census

  • 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)

  • 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 Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

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

Former National Climatic Data Center (NCDC)

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


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

  • Ask us by 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 (

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: - Meetup group where our meetings and events are scheduled - 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) - 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.

Contributions to politicians in Cuyahoga County are available at However, they are not machine-readable and greatly impedes any analysis and research.

Open Cleveland its current status in a machine-readable format.

At our meeting on the 15th, we: OCR’ed the text from the PDFs using Acrobat, then used Tabula ( to extract the text from the PDFs and transform it into CSV files, then uploaded the CSVs into google sheets which is flexible (and machine-readable), easily viewable, and 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:

Will added the 2013 documents; this does not include 2013_F_Jackson_SemiAnnual.pdf Available at:

Ron reviewed the 2014 entries and are available at

Kevin and Rob reviewed the 2015 entries ;

2016 needs to be reviewed

(Want to help? Download the 2016 campaign finance reports for jackson, F at
then compare each in the spreadsheet to the (need more direction or help? email us at

Need to geocode (geocoding is the processing of taking addresses into longitude and latitude) which is needed for any geospatial analysis and to display locations on web maps? try (requiring free signup)

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. - Meetup group where our meetings are scheduled. - Slack slack where our discussions happen in between meetings (need an invite? email opencleveland at gmail dot com) - 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 ) 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)

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:

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

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!