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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. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

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  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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