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South Bend mayor: City leads ‘open-data’ effort

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South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said there were plenty of reasons the city decided to embrace an open-data policy, putting as many public records as possible online with a pioneering city website, Open Data South Bend.

Chiefly, the data belongs to the public. “We do it in their name, they pay for it, and the information and findings ought to be made accessible,” Buttigieg said in an interview.

But another reason is to cut through the bureaucracy that exists when using Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act, the official vehicle for residents to request public records from government stewards. Buttigieg said that process – filing a specific, formal request and waiting for a determination of whether the record may be released – can be cumbersome and time-consuming for the government and the person making the request.

“I’ve been mayor just over a year-and-a-half. In that time we’ve had about 2,000 APRA claims,” Buttigieg said. While the city’s not been cited with a violation from those claims, “That’s 2,000 times a lawyer, being paid as a lawyer, has had to deal with a request. … There’s a real potential savings for the city if we can avoid the request by putting the information out there in the first place,” the mayor said.

The Open Data South Bend site launched about two weeks ago as a work in progress, Buttigieg said. “I do think it puts us ahead of a lot of peer cities around the state, and hopefully it becomes an example.”

Go online and you’ll find maps of abandoned properties, zoning maps, centerline street maps, streetlight maps, park and bikeway maps and code enforcement maps, among others. If you’re more interested in finding out how the city’s spending money or how much Buttigieg or any other city employee earns, it’s there in databases that easily can be sorted, downloaded and filtered.

The site also collects feedback from users on public records they would like to see online.

Buttigieg said much of the credit for the open-data initiative goes to the city’s vendor, Socrata, which launched the site, as well as Code for America volunteers who’ve been working with the city and have proposed open-data steps the city could take. Socrata is the software provider for South Bend’s cloud-based open data system. Code for America volunteers have been working with the city primarily in trying to gather data about abandoned and vacant properties.

The city announced the open-data website Aug. 22, and since then there have been thousands of views of data sets. South Bend initially released 12 datasets and 10 Geographic Information System maps to the portal, but others since have been added.

“South Bend is joining an elite group of open-data pioneers who are using the latest technologies to make public data more accessible and streamline collaboration between internal departments,” Socrata president and CEO Kevin Merritt said in announcing the site’s launch. He said the city was “empowering the citizens with data and tools they can use to get involved and find practical ways to improve life for everyone in South Bend.”

Some information still is protected from public view, but Buttigieg said anything that already ought to be accessible ought to be accessible online. He said the system will be useful for city employees as well as the general public, and it might have benefits beyond embracing transparency.

“We’re living in a time when big discoveries are being made just by slicing and dicing data, so there could be information we don’t have the capability in-house to analyze,” he said. “It could even lead to a business idea.”



 

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  1. Applause, applause, applause ..... but, is this duty to serve the constitutional order not much more incumbent upon the State, whose only aim is to be pure and unadulterated justice, than defense counsel, who is also charged with gaining a result for a client? I agree both are responsible, but it seems to me that the government attorneys bear a burden much heavier than defense counsel .... "“I note, much as we did in Mechling v. State, 16 N.E.3d 1015 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), trans. denied, that the attorneys representing the State and the defendant are both officers of the court and have a responsibility to correct any obvious errors at the time they are committed."

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  3. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  4. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  5. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

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