ILNews

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

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.”



 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

ADVERTISEMENT