Proposed Seattle Information and Technology Budget 2017-2018

A Message from City of Seattle’s Chief Technology Officer: 

Today Mayor Murray presented his proposed 2017-18 Budget to the City Council.

This has been a year of transition for the City’s technology functions and staff. The creation of the Seattle Information Technology Department (Seattle IT) provided an opportunity to create the City’s first unified technology budget and provided clarity into IT spending. Creating this budget is no small feat – it required merging 16 budgets into one, coordinating with finance staff from across departments to clarify and align disparate accounting treatments, and standing up a new financial management tool. While many of the methods remained the same, the 2017-18 Seattle IT budget proposal will represent a clean start for how we manage technology spend.

This first consolidated budget is aligned with five strategic priorities that will help advance Seattle IT’s ability to deliver on its objectives and advance technology across the City.

  • System and service maturity. Many of Seattle IT’s services have not evolved at the same pace as the technology advances of the past decade, nor are investments being made to automate service delivery or improve service levels. Focusing on service and system maturity will lower ongoing operational costs and improve the customer experience. The proposed budget includes funding to ensure the City maintains an acceptable level of security and can be more proactive in responding to security threats. It also adds resources to improve the City’s identity management and mobility service offerings – key components in maturing our application and infrastructure operations.
  • Smart, data-driven City. Data has the potential to drive innovation and efficiency, improving both our quality of life and economic productivity.  Unlocking the promise of a smart, data-driven city requires a focus on data governance, consistent tools that facilitate cross-department collaboration, and educating the public on how to leverage the City’s resources. In the 2017-2018 proposed budget, projects such as Seattle Police Department’s data analytics platform and the Human Services Department data-to-decisions database will help those departments make data-driven decisions to improve their services. In addition, investments in our civic technology, open data, and business intelligence programs will allow the City to engage the public and collaborate on solutions that improve our quality of life.
  • Digital Equity. Internet access and the skills necessary to be successful online are vitally important to Seattle residents. In 2016 the City put forth specific strategies and actions, developed by our community-led Digital Equity Action Committee, to bridge this digital divide.  The Initiative is one part of the Mayor’s broadband strategy to increase access, affordability, and public-private-community partnerships. The proposed budget includes additional positions to deliver on our digital equity strategies. In addition, the Mayor’s Youth Participatory budget program allocated funds to increase the number of Wi-Fi hotspots available through the Seattle Public Library’s checkout program, increasing the number of homes that will have internet access.
  • Public experience. Technology can greatly improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of government services by facilitating, automating, and streamlining interactions among the public, government employees, service providers, and other stakeholders. The proposed budget includes funding to expand the use of a customer engagement and relationship system and a new grant application system to improve the City’s engagement with the public. The budget also expands the Citywide web team.
  • Optimization. Seattle IT was created to increase the value delivered from the City’s information technology investment. Shared IT functions provide common strategy, structure and key enterprise services across City government.  Through funding in the proposed 2017-18, we will continue to optimizing the department’s structure and change how the City develops and operates applications. We will also continue to invest in enterprise architecture, business relationship management, resource management, and project portfolio management.

 

In total, the 2017 Proposed Operating Budget for Seattle IT is $203 million with another $42 million in our Capital Improvement Program. Read the Mayor’s budget speech at http://murray.seattle.gov/.

 

I’m proud of our Seattle IT team for all of their achievements in our first six months working together as a new department and excited for what we will achieve through Mayor Murray’s proposed 2017-18 budget. Together we will deliver powerful technology solutions for the City and public we serve.

 

Sincerely,

Michael Mattmiller, CTO

 

Engage Seattle: Closing the Feedback Loop

civic-tech-lunch

Tom Van Bronkhorst from the Department of Neighborhoods explains Engage Seattle to the lunch crowd at Impact Hub

Last Thursday, we co-hosted a Civic Tech Lunch Hour at Impact Hub with the Department of Neighborhoods, which is implementing an Executive Order from Mayor Ed Murray that directs the City to approach outreach and engagement in an equitable manner. Tom Van Bronkhorst from the Department of Neighborhoods shared the Mayor’s vision and shared how any member of the Seattle public can participate in Engage Seattle.

We invited attendees to share their thoughts on what information they want from the City, what information they want to give to the City, and how we might close the feedback loop. We also asked which issues people cared about the most. The more than 40 participants did this by writing down their ideas anonymously on sheets of paper and then sharing out from each table. As promised, we collected those data from everyone who wanted to give us their papers, sorted them into categories, and are currently preparing the full dataset for publication on data.seattle.gov.

In the spirit of closing the feedback loop for this event, I prepared the response below. I sorted the information requests by category, determined who the responsible office is, and, if the information is available now, linked to where it can be found. In many cases, it is already published to data.seattle.gov or on the City’s website. In cases where the information is not available, I will pass the request on to our open data champions in the relevant departments to inform how we prioritize which datasets to work on next.

We also took in your suggestions for what data you want to be able to provide to the City and how you’d like us to close the feedback loop. That information goes into a much larger project, so in the interest of not overwhelming readers, I will leave it off today’s text summary. However, you will see it in the dataset. Once that’s published, I’ll update this post with a link.

Thanks again to everyone who attended! If you weren’t able to attend last Thursday’s lunch, don’t worry –  there are still several ways you can influence this process:

If you’re still hungry to get involved, please check out our Boards & Commissions for openings. If you’re interested in collaborating on a technology project, you can reach out at civic.tech@seattle.gov. If you want more than that, we invite you to consider coming to work for us! You can explore job openings at seattle.gov/jobs.

 

 

What information do you want from the City?

Budget
Managed by: City Budget Office

Specific requests: proposed budget; how budgets are set and evaluated

Where to find it: The City Budget Office publishes the current budget book as well as presentations created for the Mayor & Council and Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (available for 2004-2015).

Bonus! 
You can also explore the proposed budget in a more user-friendly format at OpenBudget.Seattle.gov.

 

Building & Construction
Managed by: Department of Construction, Permitting & Inspections (DCPI), which oversees land use, issues design review permits, and enforces building codes.

Specific requests: building permits; zoning/land use changes and/or variances; information on when construction will happen

Where to find it:
– building permits data
– land use permits data
construction report

Bonus! These data are also available in a more interactive, visual format via My Land Use Map, Shaping Seattle: Buildings, and the privately built/managed Seattle in Progress app, where you can sign up for notifications of when Design Review Board meetings take place for buildings that interest you.

 

City Planning
Managed by: Office of Planning & Community Development (OPCD), which manages Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan as well as regional initiatives and the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda. The Seattle Design Commission and the Seattle Planning Commission are also involved in this process.

Specific requests: vision for the City; plan for sustainable development; plan for affordable housing; population & demographic data

Where to find it:
– City of Seattle Comprehensive Plan
Population & Demographic Data
– Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda

Bonus! You can learn more, see a list of all OPCD initiatives, and find out more about upcoming public meetings on the OPCD web site.

 

Customer Service
Managed byFinancial & Administrative Services, Customer Service Bureau

Specific requests: responses/feedback as to why non-emergency requests have gone unfulfilled

Where to find it: Right now, we don’t have data from the City’s Customer Service Bureau available. To follow up on a specific request, you’d have to call the City Information and Complaint Line at 206-684-2489.

Bonus! Seattle IT is working with the Customer Service Bureau to figure out how we can close the feedback loop with people who go to the trouble of providing information to us. We welcome your input on how, and the Engage Seattle Consider.It page is a great way to provide it.

 

Education, Schools and Learning
Managed byDepartment of Education and Early Learning, which funds childcare, preschool, and summer programs, and collaborates with (but does not oversee) Seattle Public Schools.

Specific requests: availability of childcare; information on the City’s engagement with public schools; plan for changing education outcomes; school performance data; curriculum information

Where to find it: Information about all the Department’s programs, including childcare assistance, community-based family support, and the preschool program, is available here.

Bonus! The City of Seattle does not manage curriculum or performance data for Seattle Public Schools, but last year, one of Microsoft’s Civic Technology Fellows created an interactive data visualization for all publicly available Seattle Public Schools data that you can also use to create your own charts and maps. It’s called SPS Interactive.

 

Emergency
Managed by: Office of Emergency Management

Specific requests: real-time updates via text message

Where to find it: Alert Seattle, where you can, in fact, sign up to receive alerts from the City in case of emergency.

Bonus! The Office of Emergency Management offers a number of preparedness tools, including this Hazard Explorer map that you can use to check out what kind of emergencies your neighborhood is at greatest risk for. Also check out this new video from OEM on emergency preparedness. I’ve never seen a more adorable Sasquatch.

 

Environment and Sustainability
Managed byOffice of Sustainability & Environment (OSE)

Specific requests: assessment of clean energy initiatives; public meetings regarding environmental policies; updates on environmental policies

Where to find it: The OSE website has all their relevant reports, including the Equity & Environment Agenda, Seattle’s Climate Action Plan, and a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory that measures the combined impact of several initiatives. The latest inventory shows that total emissions have decreased 6% since 2008 and per-resident emissions have decreased 17%.

Bonus! You can report environmental hazards such as water pollution, air quality concerns, and tree problems directly to OSE – see their website for links. You can also explore the Duwamish River cleanup and report observations along that site using an interactive, open-source civic tech tool, Hey Duwamish.

 

Homelessness
Managed by: This is a cross-cutting issue with involvement from multiple departments, all reporting to the Office of the Mayor. The main players are the Human Services Department (HSD) and All Home, which is at the King County level.

Specific requests: updates on homelessness policies; what resources are available to someone with an encampment outside their business; prevention efforts; how decisions are being made around tent camping; opportunities for the community to help

Where to find it: The All Home site has rich information focused specifically on homelessness. You can find a list of HSD efforts here.

Bonus! There is a large number of community organizations working on homelessness that are frequently in need of volunteer support, such as Union Gospel Mission, which has a mechanism for volunteer signups online. The WeCount app also makes it easy for people to respond to needs from the community, as does the Homeless in Seattle Facebook page. I encourage anyone who wants to get involved to get to know local organizations and find the one whose work resonates most with you. You can also learn more about our city’s homelessness crisis and approaches to address it on the Seattle Channel.

 

Housing
Managed by: Office of Housing and Human Services Department

Specific requests: tenant rights; information on affordable housing; affordable housing inventory

Where to find it:
– renter’s rights
– rental assistance programs
– resources for those looking for affordable housing.

Bonus! HousingSearchNW.org offers up-to-date information about the availability of income-based rentals and landlords that accept housing vouchers.

 

Legislation
Managed by: Office of the City Clerk, which maintains official City data, including legislative information.

Specific requests: current and proposed legislation

Where to find it: Seattle.Legistar.Com

Bonus! Seattle’s City Clerk, Monica Martinez Simmons, is committed to making information more easily accessible through technology. Her goal is to “exceed compliance” to ensure that all the public records in her care are easy to find. She recently presented her vision at an Open Seattle Meetup – you can find video of that event here.

 

Neighborhood Services, Grants and Funding, Volunteering & Participating
Managed by: Department of Neighborhoods (DON) and Office of Arts & Culture

Specific requests: what’s happening in my neighborhood; special events; community events and forums; how residents and businesses can get involved; available resources by location; how to be more involved in my neighborhoods

Where to find it: DON runs many community engagement programs – too many to list here, but the full list is on their site. You can also check out funding opportunities and an event calendar. There are also a number of grants and programs available through the Office of Arts & Culture, including the Neighborhood & Community Arts grant and the Arts in Parks program. Learn more about grants administered by Arts & Culture here.

Bonus! Citygram, a service managed outside the City of Seattle, offers SMS and email updates in several categories that you can constrain to a radius around your address.

 

Parks
Managed by: Parks and Recreation (Parks)

Specific requests: location, hours, and amenities at public spaces; information on wading pools in parks

Where to find it: Parks directly manages their locations’ pages on Google, so if you search for a park (e.g. Discovery Park), hours show up right on the search results pageThe newly redesigned Parks website includes a simple park-finder tool where you can search for features such wading pools. (There’s no information there about when they will be filled or not, but we’ll pass the suggestion along!)

Bonus! Not only has Parks released more than 60 datasets on data.seattle.gov, the department has gone to great lengths to make its information easy to access. Earlier this year, Parks partnered with Google to take 360-degree photos of parks & trails with the Trekker backpack. The photos will appear in Google Maps. Also, after participating in a hackathon earlier this year, Parks staff partnered with the Seattle Trails Alliance and volunteer developers to create an iPhone app that maps all of Seattle’s official trails. Finally, there are two private apps that make it easier to find information about our parks: TOTAGO, which helps you find trails accessible by public transit, and the map-based web app Seattle Park Finder.

 

Safety
Managed by: Police Department (SPD) and Department of Transportation (SDOT)

Specific requests: safe policing that rewards transparency and community engagement; bike theft data; enforcement of traffic laws for bicycle and pedestrian safety

Where to find it: 
– Seattle is a national leader in crime data transparency, releasing 911 call data every 4 hours
– Seattle is participating in the White House Police Data Initiative, which calls for greater transparency into police operations; no new datasets have been published yet
Bike theft data is published in near real-time (6 to 12 hours after entry into the Record Management System) to data.seattle.gov
– You can also find it in the interactive crime data dashboard (just filter “Category” to “Larceny-Theft” and “Sub-category” to “Theft-Bicycle” – and add in years you want to see or filter by neighborhood or precinct; you can also click through the graph to see the rows of data it’s based on)
– SDOT publishes a collision map based on data gathered from SPD and the Washington State Department of Transportation on data.seattle.gov; users can filter the dataset based on collision type (such as “Cycles”)

Bonus! Seattle is a participant in the global Vision Zero initiative to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. SDOT tracks progress on this and reports it out through performance.seattle.gov. Additionally, earlier this year, SDOT worked with a team of students in the University of Washington iSchool to create a Vision Zero dashboard that visualizations collisions by type – the center bottom graphic shows a bar chart by year with different colors for vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian collisions. There’s also a map view that’s incredibly easy to use, allowing you to view only the type of collision that interests you. You can select the year in the bottom left-hand corner and use the “F&SI” button to show only fatalities and serious injuries.

 

Technology
Managed by: Seattle Information Technology (IT)

Specific requests: what data they’re collecting; what new technologies they’re adopting; more open data and API’s for Find It Fix It; information on public dollars spent on proprietary software; coordinated information around tech opportunities

Where to find it:
– 
The City of Seattle Privacy Policy outlines the kind of data we collect and for what purpose; the Privacy Program is in the middle of a data inventory that will allow us to know what data is being collected across all our systems
– information on all tech opportunities – including employment, procurement, volunteer opportunities, and openings on the Community Technology Advisory Board – are listed on our website under “opportunities”
– data on IT spending is not currently open, but we are actively working to fulfill this request

Bonus! We recently passed a new open data policy, created a network of Open Data Champions, and hired a new program manager so we can improve the quality and quantity of data available to the public via data.seattle.gov. Seattle currently ranks 8th in the Open Knowledge Foundation’s U.S. Open Data Census – and we are determined to move up. You can learn more about the program and policy at seattle.gov/opendata.

 

Transportation
Managed by: Department of Transportation (SDOT)

Specific requests:
This is a big one, so I created subcategories for this post:
– budget and planning: how funds are being spent; transportation decisions
– public engagement: data from the recent Green Lake RPZ process (preferably in Tableau or similar format)
– vehicle traffic and construction issues: reduction or redirection of traffic flows; street closures (real-time); updates on 99&Mercer construction
– mass transit: info on regional mass transit; updates on public transit, including route changes
– cycling: solutions for bike lanes and road improvement; bicycle infrastructure improvements
– parking: parking decisions near Light Rail; parking regulations (requested in an interactive map format)

Where to find it: First, a quick explainer. Transportation is incredibly complex, largely because of the many agencies involved. Ferries and highways? They’re managed by the state. Bus routes? That’s mostly King County, though the City has paid the County to continue routes that would otherwise have been cut; we also have several other regional transit agencies running buses across county lines. Light Rail? That’s all Sound Transit. What’s left for SDOT? Water taxi, streetcar, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, parking, and street use, which includes managing all the construction that’s going on.

To keep this post from growing to the size of the City website itself, here are the main places to look for existing data:
SDOT’s Twitter account, which notes collisions, special events traffic, and other disruptions
OnTheMove.Seattle.gov, a blog and RSS feed offering regular updates on disruptions
downtown bicycle rack locations (map)
all City bicycle rack locations
a comprehensive (though not interactive) parking map

Ruth Harper has offered to share a Word doc with feedback from the Green Lake RPZ process with anyone who requests it. You can email her at Ruth.Harper@Seattle.gov. You can also learn more about the process here.

We will pass along your suggestions to our colleagues at SDOT to explore how we can make this information more easily available.

Bonus! Check out the Capital Projects Dashboard, an interactive, user-friendly map of SDOT’s major projects, from transit to paving to pedestrian improvements.

 

Voting and Elections
Managed by: Ethics & Elections Commission

Requested information: transparency around campaign finance (visual summaries of donor types and amounts)

Where to find it:
– 
all disclosure reports
summary charts
contributor search

Bonus! Earlier this years, a student at Ada Developers Academy built a tool called Lights on Washington that made it easy to explore campaign finance up to the Washington State level. It proved too expensive to sustain, but it shows that it’s possible.

 

Waterfront Project
Managed by: Office of the Waterfront

Requested information: updates on the viaduct/waterfront redesign project

Where to find it:
budget, schedule, and quarterly project reports
– you can also sign up for updates about the program, the seawall construction, and committee meetings via a form in the website’s lower right-hand corner.

Bonus! There’s also an interactive map where you can explore each element of the project in depth.

Civic Tech Roundup: September 14, 2016

Welcome to the Civic Tech Roundup! If you’d like to suggest content, please email us at civic.tech@seattle.gov.

Seattle happenings

  • We hired a new Open Data Program Manager! Learn more about David Doyle, who joins us after 18 years at Microsoft and much involvement on the City’s Community Technology Advisory Board.
  • Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods is seeking feedback from the public about their engagement strategy. You can take a two-minute survey, provide more robust feedback on engageseattle.consider.it, or come to an upcoming event like the Civic Tech Lunch Hour and Open Seattle Talks Night listed below. To access the survey in languages other than English, see results to-date, or learn more about their project, visit http://www.seattle.gov/neighborhoods/equitable-outreach-and-engagement.
  • Esperas, a nonprofit that helps people recovering from homelessness gain employment in the tech industry while also contributing to an app that helps others experiencing homelessness find resources, is taking applications for their internship program until September 30. Find out more at http://www.esperas.org/intern.
  • Heads up: The weekend of October 7-9 will feature multiple civic tech events: A hackathon to stop wildlife trafficking at Woodland Park Zoo, a hackathon to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline from Code Fellows and Team Child, and an Alexa Open Data Skills Challenge at Amazon Web Services.

 

In the news

  • GeekWire ran a feature on EarthGames, an interdisciplinary group at University of Washington that builds games to educate people abut climate change.
  • Seattle Weekly ran a feature on local app WeCount, which aims to disrupt homelessness through peer-to-peer sharing.
  • The Mayors of San Francisco and Washington, DC, launched the Council of Global City CIOs, calling it “A Civic Tech Dream, Coming True.”

 

Must-reads

  • Data scientist & mathematician Cathy O’Neill’s book, Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, dropped on September 6 and has already stirred up media attention and conversation in the civic tech world with its documentation of the “pernicious feedback loops” that big data can create. Check out her interview with NPR.
  • Mark Cridge, CEO of the UK-based MySociety, was interviewed by the Hewlett Foundation’s David Sasaki. “Lack of access to public services, institutions and elected representatives, especially among disadvantaged or underrepresented groups, is a key driver of exclusion and inequality, yet governments tend only to become better at serving the needs of citizens when those citizens are capable of demanding better services,” he said. Read the full interview on Medium.
  • Tech journalist Steven Levy published a longform profile of Carl Malamud, an open government champion who has been sued by standards development organizations who claim copyright over the legal codes they helped to create.

 

Upcoming events 

Events with official City involvement: 

Community events with a civic tech component:

David Doyle is the City’s New Open Data Program Manager

David Doyle, Open Data Program Manager

David Doyle, Open Data Program Manager

David Doyle has been hired as the Open Data Program Manager for the City of Seattle. David will work alongside the current manager, Bruce Blood, who will be retiring in January. He will primarily focus on continuing the implementation of the Open Data policy signed by Mayor Ed Murray on February 1, 2016. This work involves coordinating efforts across all city departments to accelerate the publishing of high value datasets into http://data.seattle.gov. He’ll also partner closely with the City’s Community Technology Advocate, Candace Faber, on initiatives that strengthen Open Data’s role as a key pillar in the City’s Civic Engagement strategy, as well as participating in various efforts to represent and promote the City of Seattle as a leading Smart City in the US.

Prior to joining the City of Seattle, David worked at Microsoft for over 18 years within the Windows localization and internationalization teams. Most recently he ran a Data Insights team that focused on Windows 10 worldwide customer data, analyzing data from hundreds of millions of customers to provide insights into customer usage patterns outside of the US and ensuring that key customer feedback from those markets was prioritized and addressed. Prior to that role, he managed test teams that focused on assuring the localization quality of several major releases of the Windows operating system in over 100 languages, culminating with the Windows 10 initial release in July 2015.

David’s passion for Open Data resulted in him completing a policy analysis of the impacts of an Open Data Law for Washington State for his Capstone research project when earning a Master of Arts in Policy Studies from University of Washington-Bothell, in 2015. He is an active member of the eGov Committee, a sub-committee of Seattle’s Community Technology Advisory Board (CTAB), which advises and supports the City on technology initiatives. David also holds an Master of Science in Technology Management from University College Dublin, Ireland, and a Bachelor of Science in Applied Sciences (Computer Science & Physics) from the Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland.

Civic Tech Roundup: August 31, 2016

We’re still looking for a logo for this newsletter – if you can help, or if you’d like to suggest content, please email us at civic.tech@seattle.gov.

Seattle happenings

  • What happens with your ORCA card data? The Seattle Times ran a feature on a team of students in the University of Washington’s Data Science for Social Good summer program who just completed a project analyzing 21 million ORCA card readings – a two-month sample that reflects a fraction of Sound Transit’s holdings.
  • Using some of the source code developed for Seattle’s Broadband Speed Test, the City of Louisville released a similar interactive tool called Speed Up Louisville.
  • This weekend, Hack for Healthcare was held at Startup Hall, yielding ideas for tackling issues from mental health to prescription drug use tracking. Check out this writeup from host Kal Academy and the Tweets tagged #hackforhealthcare.

 

In the news

  • The White House and the U.S. Department of Education just awarded $100k to New York-based ThinkZone Games, the winner of the Reach Higher career app challenge. Watch First Lady Michelle Obama make the announcement, read a writeup in Xconomy, or check out the company site at hatsandladders.com.
  • Data company Kaggle just released its own open data portal, which allows for analysis and visualization without download. Check it out.
  • Policy.Mic featured several young entrepreneurs in a feature on elections-related civic tech. In explaining why one of the featured organizations was set up as a nonprofit, author Kathleen Wong highlights the gap between the private and public sector that’s given rise to civic tech overall: “Those who understand Congress typically don’t understand technology, and vice versa.”

 

Must-reads

  • California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom Talks Transparency, Civic Tech, State IT Reforms.” In this interview with GovTech magazine, current Lieutenant Governor of California and former Mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom shares his vision for how civic tech can transform government. “People are demanding a different kind of openness, and they have a right to demand it,” Newsom says. “It’s a race against time right now because people’s experience with government is contrasted every single day by the private sector, and our experience in public sector is so glaring, and so problematic in terms of civic engagement, and in terms of governmental interaction and trust that, at least from my perspective, this is code red. […] We just have to have this massive cultural and technological shift around interests — not agencies, not silos, and that requires a massive reorganization. That’s not reform, that’s reimagining, and what I’ll be promoting is reimagining these systems, not reforming them.”
  • Encouraging and Sustaining Innovation in Government.” This new report from open government legend Beth Noveck and Stefaan Verhulst of GovLab details the outstanding challenges and opportunities for the public sector.
  • Three Advantages of Beta-Testing City Websites.” This article in GovTech explores an emerging trend among cities: trying beta sites on real users before relaunching.

 

Upcoming events 

  • Thursday, September 15, 12:00 pm: Civic Tech Lunch Hour at Impact Hub Seattle featuring the Department of Neighborhoods (RSVP)
  • Friday-Saturday, September 9-10: Technology & Justice Symposium at University of Washington School of Law (RSVP)
  • September 10-23: Seattle Design Festival
  • Thursday, September 22: Open Seattle Meetup (no RSVP yet)
  • October 14-16: Seattle GiveCamp
  • October 15-16: DubHacks (students only)

Open Data Playbook Now Available

Seattle IT staff and members of the community stand behind Mayor Ed Murray as he signs an Executive Order in support of the City's new open data policy on February 26, 2016. Photo courtesy of Colin Wood.

Seattle IT staff and members of the community stand behind Mayor Ed Murray as he signs an Executive Order in support of the City’s new open data policy on February 26, 2016. Photo courtesy of Colin Wood.

Want to know how Seattle’s open data program is managed? Curious how we get from policy to action? Check out our newly published open data playbook here, also linked to from seattle.gov/opendata.

The playbook is a guide for City staff on how to implement the open data policy and executive order that were issued in February 2016. We are making it available to the general public as well, based on demand for this information from other cities as well as from members of the community.

This document is in Portable Document Format, but please consider the content open-source: You may use or reuse any language or images you find helpful, with the exception of the City’s official logo. We plan to update the document as needed based on feedback from users inside the City as well as any changes we make to the program’s management over time.

If you have feedback for the open data team on this playbook or any other questions about the program, you can reach us at open.data@seattle.gov.

Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle Information Technology Partner to Give Watershed Radio Communications a Boost

picture of radio communications

Cedar River Watershed

By Brian Mikelson, SPU Public Relations Specialist (article originally appeared on SPU InWeb)

At Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), safety is always top of mind. For field employees, this means following certain protocols to avoid hazards and reduce the chances that an accident will occur. Less obvious, but just as important, is the role of reliable radio communications.

For much of Seattle Public Utilities’ service area, especially where population density is high, the radio communication system functions extremely well. This is not always the case in the Cedar River Watershed, where SPU staff and contractors are working on the Chester Morse Lake Pump Plant (MLPP) project. A lack of existing infrastructure and interference from the Cascade Mountains make communications difficult. SPU has long recognized the need to install better communications capabilities should the MLPP crew need to reach the Cedar Falls office or other crews in the event of a hazardous materials spill or an accident involving personnel. Thanks to a strong One Team effort from SPU and other City departments, a more reliable system is finally at hand.

Plans for getting a permanent communications system installed have been in the works for some time. Earlier this spring, SPU was close to finalizing a deal to lease space on a radio site in the Rattlesnake Ledge area, which the department does not own. Just weeks before the system was to be installed, the landlord became totally unresponsive, and SPU had to scramble. Ultimately, staff from the SPU Watershed Protection and Operations teams, SPU Emergency Management group, and City of Seattle IT department were able to work together to come up with a viable solution.

Traditionally, the infrastructure necessary for radio communication includes a tower, power source, and structure to house electronics, but none of these exist on site at Chester Morse Lake.

“We wanted to use tools that were already in place without overburdening the staff,” says Ned Worcester, head of SPU’s Emergency Management team. “With the help of Seattle IT and our engineering consultant, we did some computer modeling to determine viable radio sites, and the watershed staff validated them for access and maintenance potential.”

Next, Emergency Management set to the task of finding existing equipment to install on the chosen site. They rounded up radio equipment provided by Seattle IT, including an outdoor equipment cabinet salvaged from the roof of a Seattle Fire Department station. Seattle IT tested the equipment, mounted an antenna, and transported everything to the Watershed. SPU Watershed staff then delivered everything to the chosen site.

All that remained was finding a viable power source to run the equipment. Initially, the watershed team utilized four car batteries, hauling two at a time to the site. But the batteries had to be swapped out every day for charging, which required several hours of labor.

To save time and money, SPU began exploring alternatives. Emergency Management asked Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) staff for ideas. They proposed solar and secured bids from contractors, but all required too much manufacturing lead time.

Eventually, Watershed Operations staff came up with the idea for a thermo-electric generator (TEG). SPU owned two TEGs that were previously used for instream flow monitoring. The TEG utilizes propane to heat up platinum wire that produces electricity. Operations staff removed one of the TEGs from storage to fire up, configure, and transport to the remote site, along with a 500-gallon propane tank.

Additionally, the new radio channel had to be programmed into all of the radios at Cedar Falls. This required coordination between the Seattle IT radio shop technicians and SPU Watershed Protection staff to round up and physically program all of the portable and vehicle radios.

In just three days, SPU’s teams retrieved the radio equipment and Seattle IT’s radio shop provided a repurposed cabinet to house the equipment on site, helped find radio channels, tested and programmed the equipment, and mounted the antenna. These efforts took place on a Friday and over the weekend, and represented additional work for all staff involved.

Thanks to the collective efforts of SPU and Seattle IT staff, ratepayers save money, watershed radio coverage is improved, and operations are now safer and more efficient.

“This was a quintessential One Team effort and an example of what it takes to maintain communications that keep our employees safe and operations running smoothly,” says Worcester. “Several departments worked together to assemble a pilot radio communications system that can be replicated each year. We’re already planning how to create a physical site to be deployed year-round or seasonally.”

City of Seattle awards $320,000 for digital equity

Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council today awarded 10 Seattle organizations a total of $320,000 in Technology Matching Funds from the City of Seattle. Council committee voted unanimously to approve the awards. Full Council approval is expected on Sept. 6. “Technology impacts nearly every facet of our lives, from finding jobs to thriving in school,” said Murray. “Our investment in these community driven projects will open the door to greater success for Seattleites who lack sufficient technology access and essential digital skills.” “One of the most effective and meaningful community investments we make in this City are these technology grants,” said Council President Bruce Harrell. “These grants help people succeed by learning skills critically necessary in the 21st century. They provide critical support where the digital divide is the greatest, to our low-income, homeless, immigrant refugee, senior and disabled residents.” The Technology Matching Fund projects help meet the city’s Digital Equity Initiative goals of increasing connectivity, digital skills training, and providing devices and technical support, through partnerships and community-driven solutions. They will assist more than 2,500 residents in historically underserved or underrepresented communities, including 580 immigrants and refugees, 1,240 seniors and 1,100 people with disabilities. The 2016 Technology Matching Fund award recipients include:
  • Children’s Home Society of Washington/North Seattle Family Center
  • Coalition for Refugees from Burma
  • Community & Parents for Public Schools
  • El Centro de la Raza
  • Full Life Care
  • Multimedia Resources Training Institute
  • Na’ah Illahee Fund
  • New Horizons
  • SightConnection
  • Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle
Seattle’s Community Technology Advisory Board selected the projects from 41 applicants though a rigorous application review process.  Awardees will contribute more than $470,000 in projected community matching resources. For more information and a map of Technology Matching Fund awardees, visit http://www.seattle.gov/tech/initiatives/digital-equity/technology-matching-fund/2016-awardees.  

Your Rights During a Cable Outage

If your household is affected by a widespread cable outage, you have some recourse under the City of Seattle’s cable franchise agreements and the Cable Customer Bill of Rights. Please note that the City’s franchising authority extends to cable television service only and does not include Internet service.

First, make sure that you report your outage by calling your provider:

  • Comcast: 1-800-COMCAST (266-2278)
  • Wave: 1-866-928-3123
  • CenturyLink: 1-800-244-1111

The Cable Customer Bill of Rights (Seattle Municipal Code Chapter 21.60) specifically allows for customers who report outages to receive credit. Under Section C.3:

b. In the event of a system outage (an outage is a service interruption that involves a loss or substantial impairment in reception on all channels for a period of one hour or more) resulting from grantee equipment failure affecting five or more customers, the grantee shall initiate repairs within two hours after the third customer calls to report the outage.

c. All customers who call the grantee to report an outage shall receive credit for the entire day on which the outage occurred and for each additional day the outage continues.

The Cable Customer Bill of Rights also establishes levels and quality of service to ensure customer satisfaction. Specifically when it comes to courtesy, accessibility, responsiveness, services for customers with disabilities, customer information, customer privacy, safety, satisfaction guarantees, complaint procedures and credits to customers, the City of Seattle can advocate on your behalf. Please visit the Office of Cable Communications web site for more information, including how to contact us.

Civic Tech Roundup: August 17

Introducing a new feature on the Seattle IT TechTalk blog: the Civic Tech Roundup. Twice a month, we’ll feature news, must-reads, and upcoming events in civic tech, curated especially for Seattle’s civic-minded tech community. To suggest content, including upcoming events, email us at civic.tech@seattle.gov.

In the news

  • For those still wondering what civic tech even is, here’s a quick overview from today’s GovTech.
  • This month, the print edition of GovTech magazine featured Seattle civic entrepreneur Ethan Phelps-Goodman on the cover, in a story (available online) that also features national leaders such as Code For America Founder Jen Pahlka. The article quotes Open Seattle organizer Seth Vincent and several members of the City of Seattle IT department. Author Colin Wood writes, “civic tech — the place where government interests intersect with community-minded activists who are ready to donate their time and talents — is the public sector’s fastest-moving innovation inlet.”
  • The Bay Area Startup-in-Residence program (STiR) is entering its second cohort of civic-minded, tech-enabled startups helping city governments tackle their challenges. This is impressive, but perhaps the biggest innovation news in the piece is the fact that it triggered a simplification of the procurement process in the San Francisco City government, rolling up 17 separate requests for proposals into a single form. Learn more about the 14 startups working with Bay Area governments in the article.
  • Finally, GeekWire ran a lengthy interview with Civic Technology Advocate Candace Faber (that’s me), outlining the need for technologists to get involved in civic issues beyond creating apps.

 

Must-reads

  • The Surprising Place Where Activists Are Fixing Society’s Problems,” in this month’s Inc. magazine, highlights activists-turned-entrepreneurs who see technology as a potential solution to social problems. Benjamin Jealous, a former head of the NAACP, is quoted saying, “All of us had been national, progressive advocates, leading organizations that needed urgently to solve big problems, and we found ourselves banging our heads against a brick wall. Here [in Silicon Valley] was an opportunity to do things that had proved impossible in Congress.”
  • Exploring Online Engagement in Public Policy Consultation: The Many or the Few?” Many civic tech products are focused on engaging the public in solving their own problems. Is this always the right approach for government? What are the implications for members of the public whose needs deserve consideration but cannot participate as directly in the decision-making process? That’s the subject of this academic paper from Helen Liu of the University of Hong Kong, published in this month’s Australian Journal of Public Administration and available in full online.
  • vTaiwan: Public Participation Methods on the Cyberpunk Frontier of Democracy,” explores the seeds of collaboration between Taiwan’s government and its open-source community, resulting in a virtual policy development engine that has since expanded beyond addressing cyberpolicy. This is perhaps a counterpoint to the essay above, with author Liz Barry noting, “The fact that these methods are working at a national scale in Taiwan suggests that, in an age of mass digital participation, we can reclaim the democratic process for including the people’s voice in creating laws.”
  • Design and the Self,” an essay by Khosla Ventures’ Irene Au, summarizes all the reasons why design matters – including how it makes us feel, with implications for cities that also want to be the best versions of their “selves.”

 

Upcoming events 

  • Thursday, August 18 (tomorrow!), 3:00-5:00 pm: Data Science for Social Good Presentations at University of Washington (details + RSVP)
  • Friday through Sunday, August 19-21: Maker Land open air camping + maker event, Seal Rock, Oregon (details + RSVP)
  • Saturday, August 27, 10:00 am-10:00 pm: Hack for Healthcare at University of Washington Startup Hall (details + RSVP)
  • Looking ahead: Seattle Design Festival, September 10-23

 

BONUS: Request!

The Civic Tech Roundup needs a logo! A pixelated lasso, perhaps? An adorable gathering of techie things on a picnic blanket? Or maybe even a different name to go with a more compelling image? If you’re inspired and willing to contribute, please reach out.

Note: If you love civic tech, we recommend keeping up with the news via GovTech (esp. Jason Shueh and Colin Wood), Civicist, and the Code for America blog, as well as local Code for America brigade Open Seattle