“Starting today, the Mayor and this City Council will place fundamental components of democracy online, for no cost, available to anyone regardless of location, privilege, language, or device. We are delighted to see the Mayor and this Council build on the City’s pioneering transparency efforts,” said Noel Hidalgo, Executive Director of BetaNYC. “We look forward to unleashing this canonical database of municipal information. One year from now we envision municipal notifications streaming through every imaginable interface. As a result of the efforts of this pioneering civic hacking working group, the City Record and Law will become a first-class collection of information that strengthens local business opportunities and builds smarter neighborhoods. Today, New York City takes another pioneering step towards making government accessible for the people.”
Two New Transparency Laws!
Five years ago, the New York City Council introduce Intro 952-2009 which would have placed the City’s canonical database of solicitation procurement notices and awards, public hearings, meetings, court notices, property dispositions, agency public hearings, agency rules, and changes in personnel online. On 28 April, the Committee on Governmental Operations held a hearing, at which good government groups such as Citizens Union testified in support of the proposal. The bill never made it out of committee and died on 31 December 2009.
Last year, members of BetaNYC penned The People’s Guide to a Digital New York City and outlined 32 issues future New York City governments should address. Recommendation #14 requested the publication of the City Record “online” and in “more useful ways.” We argued: “As the city record is the canonical database of solicitation procurement notices and awards, public hearings, meetings, court notices, property dispositions, agency public hearings, agency rules, and changes in personnel, the City Record needs to be envisioned as a portal accessible via all types of devices for all New Yorkers. Starting with real-time data feeds or APIs, reimagining this site would unlock opportunities for small business to know when and where they could bid on services and engage in government. Finally, by producing this tool in a more open format, the people of New York would finally get access to the true inner workings of government.”
Today, the Mayor and this City Council will place fundamental components of democracy online, for no cost, available to anyone regardless of location, privilege, language, or device. BetaNYC is delighted to see the Mayor and this Council build on the City’s pioneering transparency efforts.
Today, the Mayor is signing into law two bills. Both focus on placing the fundamental components of democracy online, for no cost, with with its contents in machine readable formats. Intro 149-2014 unlocks the City Charter and City Law; Intro 0363-2014 unlocks the City’s ‘log file,’ the City Record.
THE CROW FLYS
While both bills are huge wins, they introduce huge challenges. While placing the City Charter and City Law online and into a machine readable format are straightforward acts, the City Record is locked away in two types of PDFs – 1998 to 2008, scanned documents; March 2008 till the present are text accessible PDFs. As the City Record is the City’s ‘record of note’ and designed to be a printed publication, we have unique formatting challenges.
To explore how to unlock this information, we are forming City Record Online Workgroup, aka CROW! CAW! CAW!
The City of New York, BetaNYC, Citizens Union, Dev Bootcamp, Ontodia, Socrata, and the Sunlight Foundation are flocking together to launch a working group to scrape pick through 16 years of PDFs. Using a mixture of BitTorrents, a discussion list, and a github repo, we seek a collaborative partnership to build a first-class collection of information that will strengthen local businesses and builds smarter neighborhoods.
We hope this project will provide unique insights and help inform the city on how they should comply with the law. One year from now, we envision municipal notifications streaming through every imaginable interface.
We thank the Mayor, NYC’s open government godmother – Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Member Brad Lander, Council Member Ben Kallos, Chair of the Government Operations Committee, and Council Member James Vacca, Chair of the Technology Committee for their leadership and this unprecedented opportunity. We thank Citizens Union for their pioneering vision. Lastly, we thank all of our partners for having faith that such an undertaking can be done.
Will you join us at http://bit.ly/git-crow – git it? 😉
- Citizens Union’s Testimony to Intro 952, 28 April 2009
- Citizens Union’s Testimony to Intros 149, 328 and 363, 9 June 2014
- Sunlight Foundation’s Testimony to Intros 149, 348, 363, 9 June 2014
- BetaNYC’s Testimony to Intros 149, 328, 363, 9 June 2014
- Council Press Release on the passage of Intro 149 and 363, 24 July 2014.