Civic Tech Roundup: August 31, 2016

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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
  • 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.”



  • 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

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

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  

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

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.



  • 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

Seattle IT’s New Director of Security, Risk, and Compliance: Dena Solt

photograph of Dena Solt

Dena Solt:  Director of Security, Risk and Compliance

Hired in July, Dena fills the final position on Seattle IT’s Executive Team where she leads the effort to keep the City’s—and its customers’—data secure and privacy protected.  To do that, Dena sees her challenge as “responding to day-to-day security and privacy matters while getting an understanding of the vast and complex City of Seattle, its systems and operations.”  One of her first priorities is to develop a prioritized and cohesive multi-year strategic plan for the City’s information security, risk, compliance, and privacy program—a plan that will ensure information assets are stored and protected in a manner that meets or exceeds corporate, compliance and regulatory requirements, and builds the public’s trust in government.

That is a tall order for somebody still new to the City of Seattle; Dena acknowledges that success depends on “developing, and empowering a team of proactive, collaborative, knowledgeable individuals to help carry out the plan.”  She says she feels fortunate that her staff and the other Seattle IT employees she has met are “incredibly talented, knowledgeable, and dedicated.” One of the first accomplishments in building out the new Security, Risk, and Compliance team was the appointment of Chief Information Security Officer Jeff Brausieck, who will be joining the team on August 10th.

While Dena may be new to the City, she is not new to her role.  She comes to Seattle IT with more than eighteen years of experience in technology, information security, risk management, compliance, and privacy.  She has worked on four continents and lived in South Africa prior to moving to the state of Washington thirteen years ago.  A Certified Information Security Auditor, she has assisted a wide range of public and private sector organizations, participated in various security industry initiatives, and served as Director of Corporate Risk and Compliance for, where she managed security, privacy, compliance, internal audit, payment processing, and IT finance.

When she’s not working, Dena enjoys adventure travel, photography (she is now venturing into astrophotography,) and spending time with friends and family, including her 20-year-old son when he is home from college.

Both personally and professionally, Dena sees Seattle IT as a great fit. “I decided to join Seattle IT after meeting Michael Mattmiller and the IT leadership team who I can now proudly refer to as my colleagues,” she notes. “I wholeheartedly believe in the vision and direction and simply could not turn away from the opportunity to work with you all to tackle the challenges, mitigate the risks, and be part of the solution.”

Do you have an opinion on Wave Broadband services?

waveWe’d like to hear from you!

Wave Broadband’s cable franchise to operate in the City of Seattle expires November 2017.

As part of the franchise renewal process, the City is gathering input from community members on future cable-related interests and needs.

If you’re a Wave Broadband customer, we’d like to hear from you:


June 29, 2016, Wednesday, 7-8:30 p.m. at the Jefferson Community Center, 3801 Beacon Ave S, 98108

July 20, 2016, Wednesday, 6:15-7:45 p.m. at the Douglass Truth Library, 2300 E Yesler Way, 98122

  • Co-Sponsored with the City’s Community Technology Advisory Board


Comment form:


Via email

Over the phone


Seattle Channel Wins Two Regional Emmy Awards

seattle channel logo



Contact: Lori Patrick, (206) 733-9764


Station recognized for historic/cultural programming

SEATTLE – Seattle Channel is the recipient of two Northwest Regional Emmy Awards for historic/cultural programming, one for a segment about the Georgetown Steam Plant and another for an animated short film about a local World War II veteran.


The city-operated station was recognized Saturday, June 4 at the Northwest Chapter of the National Academy of Arts & Sciences’ (NATAS) Emmy Awards ceremony.


“Seattle Channel’s in-depth coverage of City Hall and Seattle’s diverse communities helps residents stay informed, engaged and connected with their city,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “I congratulate the station on its work and its commitment to inspiring civic engagement.”


A CityStream story about the Georgetown Steam Plant, now the Georgetown PowerPlant Museum, won in the historic/cultural segment category. A blast from Seattle’s past, the plant was built in 1906 mostly to power the city’s electric streetcar system. The segment was produced, photographed and edited by Ralph Bevins. Watch the winning segment:


Shiro Kashino, a World War II veteran who grew up in Seattle’s Central District, is the subject of an animated short film, An American Hero: Shiro Kashino, which won in the historic/cultural program category. The feature, part of Seattle Channel’s Community Stories series, draws from the graphic novel Fighting for America: Nisei Soldiers, written by Lawrence Matsuda and illustrated by Matt Sasaki. The piece was produced and directed by Shannon Gee, animated by Randy Eng, with audio engineering and sound design by Thomas Cavit and writing by Lawrence Matsuda. Watch the winning feature:


“Seattle Channel is a catalyst that helps bring people together and develop a better understanding of our changing city,” said Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell, chair of the Council’s Education, Equity and Governance Committee. “The station’s inclusive programming features a variety of voices on subjects ranging from public policy to the people and cultural traditions that comprise Seattle.”


In the 53rd annual Northwest Emmy Awards, Seattle Channel competed against commercial and public television stations in the Northwest NATAS five-state region which includes Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. This year, the station received 17 Emmy nominations in program categories including overall station excellence, arts/entertainment, health/science, politics/government, interview/discussion, promotion/program campaign as well as photography and editing.


“Seattle Channel is committed to producing quality content with depth and impact,” said John Giamberso, Seattle Channel general manager. “Our public-affairs programs spark informed civic dialogue and our arts features and documentaries entertain and inspire. I applaud our talented team for its dedication to excellence in local programming.”


Seattle Channel is a local TV station that reflects, informs and inspires the community it serves. Seattle Channel presents programs on cable television – channel 21 on Comcast (321 HD) and Wave (721 HD) – and via the Internet at to help residents connect with their city. Programming includes series and special features highlighting the diverse civic and cultural landscape of the Pacific Northwest’s premier city.

Civic Tech News — What Works Cities Initiative in Seattle

https___img_evbuc_com_https%253A%252F%252Fcdn_evbuc_com%252Fimages%252F21095394%252F25356730269%252F1%252ForiginalSince 2015, the City of Seattle has been working quietly on a number of programs to make our government more data-driven, results-oriented, and innovative. We passed a new open data policy that balances transparency and privacy. We are shifting to a new model for performance management, both within the City and with our contractors. We are using design thinking to explore new approaches to big issues such as youth unemployment and homelessness, with a 5-person team in Mayor Murray’s Office of Policy & Innovation dedicated to one project at a time. What has made such big changes possible in such a short period of time? The common thread is Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Inspired by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s experiences using data and design thinking to improve that city, Bloomberg Philanthropies has created a number of initiatives that make it possible for other cities to explore what “works.” These include What Works Cities (hyperlink:, a national initiative for mid-sized cities to improve use of data and evidence in decision-making, and Innovation Teams (hyperlink: Under Mayor Murray’s leadership, our city is taking full advantage of both. Seattle is one of the pilot cities in What Works Cities and currently has an Innovation Team in its second year of operations.

What Works Cities Panel: Chrissie Grover-Roybal, Tina Walha, Tyler Running Deer and Candace Faber

What Works Cities Panel:
Chrissie Grover-Roybal, Tina Walha, Tyler Running Deer and Candace Faber


On May 26, Seattle IT hosted a panel discussion at the local Impact Hub to share the work these groups are doing with the broader public. The panel was moderated by Candace Faber, the City’s Civic Technology Advocate, and featured:

  • Tyler Running Deer, Seattle’s Organizational Performance Director, who has been leading the City of Seattle’s engagement under the What Works Cities program,
  • Chrissie Grover-Roybal, Innovation Fellow with the Government Performance Lab at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and
  • Tina Walha, Director of the Innovation Team in the Mayor’s Office of Policy and Innovation.


Over 60 people attended May 26 Event at Impact Hub

Over 60 people attended May 26 Event at Impact Hub

The City of Seattle joined What Works Cities in August 2015 as one of eight cities in the first national cohort, setting goals for three projects: to research and establish a Citywide Open Data policy and program; to design and develop a Citywide, central organizational performance program; and to explore, analyze, and establish a pilot results-driven contracting practice to improve the outputs and outcomes of contracted services to the public.


The first two projects are complete from the What Works Cities perspective, having now been institutionalized in the City through dedicated full-time positions in Seattle IT and the Mayor’s Office as well as new roles for existing staff across departments. The performance team is working on a strategic framework and a toolkit to help city departments better use data and information to manage services and programs, anticipated to be complete by mid-2016. The third project, led here by Chrissie Grover-Roybal, is still in progress, and reorients the structure and management of homeless services contracts to focus on improving outcomes for people experiencing homelessness.


The Innovation Team spent its first year examining strategies to increase access to opportunity and decrease the impact of violence among Seattle’s young Black men, ages 14 to 24. This year, the team will be focused on addressing Seattle’s homelessness crisis. To learn more about the Innovation Team, check out