Press Release: Local Volunteers Release “Vote ATX” Voting Place Finder App

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Local Volunteers Release “Vote ATX” Voting Place Finder App

Austin, TX (October 22, 2014) – Local volunteers have released a free application that helps Austin area residents find the best place to vote. The application, Vote ATX, is available at http://voteatx.us

Travis County voters have many options for voting. The Vote ATX application tries to answer the simple question, “Where is the best place I can go vote right now?” The application is location and calendar aware, and helps identify available voting places – even mobile voting locations that move during the day.

The City of Austin has incorporated the Vote ATX technology to power the voting place finder on its election page at http://www.austintexas.gov/vote

The Vote ATX application was developed by volunteers at Open Austin, and is provided as a free public service. First released in 2012, this update includes 10-1 city council district support and a new visual design. The application incorporates open government data provided by Travis County and the City of Austin.

“This is a pivotal election for our city. We hope the Vote ATX app helps people get out and vote,” said Open Austin Chair Chip Rosenthal. “We think this app also demonstrates the tech creativity that can be unleashed when governments release open data.”

Open government data – or, sometimes, just open data – refers to government data published in a format that is easily loaded into and read by a computer. Open Austin works with local government to support more open data. The City of Austin publishes open data on its data portal at https://data.austintexas.gov

Open Austin is a citizen volunteer group that promotes open government, open data, and civic application development in Austin, Texas. Open Austin was formed in 2009 by citizens interested in the City of Austin web strategy. Open Austin is non-partisan and non-endorsing. It has conducted voter outreach campaigns in every City of Austin municipal election since 2011. Open Austin is on the web at www.open-austin.org

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(Download a PDF version of the press release here.)

Press Release: Austin Mayoral and City Council Candidates Respond on Civic Technology Issues

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Austin Mayoral and City Council Candidates Respond on Civic Technology Issues

Austin, TX (October 15, 2014) – Candidates for mayor and city council in the November 4, 2014 election have been surveyed about their positions relating to open government, open data, and civic technology. Their responses are now available online.

Open Austin, a grassroots civic-­advocacy group, created the questionnaire. Open Austin has surveyed candidates in every City of Austin municipal election since 2011. This year’s questionnaire included nine questions.

The questionnaire and responses are available to view on the Open Austin website at http://www.open­austin.org/atxelection

“Our candidate questionnaire is an important way for us to put these issues before the candidates,” Open Austin Chair Chip Rosenthal said. “We hope this is the start of a discussion to provide more open data and better online services in the city.”

Of the 78 declared candidates, 27 responded to the open government questionnaire. Five of the eight mayoral candidates chose to participate.

This year, Open Austin challenged candidates to provide their campaign finance information in an easy­-to-use format, information that they already file on state forms. Seventeen of the 27 respondents accepted this open data challenge.

In addition to its public website (www.austintexas.gov), the City of Austin operates an open data portal (data.austintexas.gov). The Austin City Council has adopted an open government resolution, which calls for a city strategy to publish open data and embrace important technologies.

Open Austin is a citizen volunteer group that promotes open government, open data, and civic application development in Austin, Texas. Open Austin was formed in 2009 by citizens interested in the City of Austin web strategy. Open Austin is non-­partisan and non-­endorsing. It has conducted voter outreach campaigns in every City of Austin municipal election since 2011. Open Austin is on the web at www.open­austin.org

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(Download a PDF version of the press release here.)

Open Gov & Civic Tech Meetup, Oct 20

Date: Mon, Oct 20, 2014
Time: 6:45 – 8:45 pm
Location: Terrazas Branch Library, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX, 78702 (map)
Calendar: link

Invited Guest: Joe Iannello, VP & Chief Information Officer, Cap Metro

Capital Metro already is publishing open data. They’ve also have embraced open data standards such as GTFS. Soon they will be rolling out a new advanced capability: real-time data for certain transit services.

Joe Iannello  will be joining us to discuss Cap Metro technology plans, including this exciting new service.

Also, Nick Hadjigeorge from our Gov Team will give an update on the results of our candidate questionnaire for the Nov. election.

After the meetup, we’ll move across the street to Cenote cafe.

The meetup location is easily accessed by public transportation and has plentiful parking. If you park, however, be sure to move your car if you plan to come to Cenote. The lot is locked when the library closes.

The Open Austin Hack Team will have a check-in from 6:00 – 6:30 pm, in advance of the meetup. If you are a developer or designer who wants to work on hacking projects, please come for the check-in to find out what’s going on.

Open Austin hosts a monthly meet-up, to discuss local open government and civic technology issues. Our meet-ups are free and open to the public.

The Campaign Finance Open Data Challenge

We’re asking all the candidates in this City of Austin election a number of questions on open government and open data issues. We’ve done this in every city election since 2011. Their responses will be posted here.

New this year, we included a Campaign Finance Open Data Challenge. We asked the candidates:

The City of Austin currently posts candidate and office holder financial statements as scanned facsimiles (PDF format) of the filed, attested documents. [...] Will you publicly post your campaign receipts and expenditures (as reported to the City on form C/OH) online, in CSV spreadsheet data format, within 30 days of filing a report with the Austin City Clerk?

We knew this would be a tough ask when we made it. There are hundreds of reasons why not to open data. It’s hard, messy, and scary. There are only a few good reasons in favor of opening data. They are, however, extremely compelling reasons, such as increased transparency and public engagement.

We posed the question to the candidates as a lab experiment, to give them an opportunity to experience the process of opening public data. That process starts with a review of the viability and risks of the proposal, a consideration of the implementation, and finally execution and publication.

On our 2014 Austin City Council Candidate Questionnaire page, we tagged each candidate that responded to our questionnaire with one of the following:

  • declined – The candidate indicated they would not be posting a machine readable version of campaign finance data.
  • accepted – The candidate indicated that they are willing to post a machine readable version of campaign finance data.
  • completed – The campaign has posted a machine readable version of their campaign finance data. Click through to the candidate page for location of their posting.

We will update the status as the campaign proceeds, and when a candidate completes the challenge we will post a link to their posting on the page with their questionnaire answers.

We appreciate the time the candidates took to respond to our questionnaire, and especially want to recognize those candidates that have elected to accept the Campaign Finance Open Data Challenge that we have posed.

We will follow up with the candidates that have accepted the challenge, to track where they post the data.

Cute Pets Austin: It’s Live … and Adorable

Our latest deployment is a CutePetsAustin Twitter feedTwitterbot called Cute Pets Austin.

Every fews hours, it locates a pet that’s a recent Austin Animal Center intake, and posts a tweet with information on that animal.

Our Twitterbot is part of a national network of Cute Pets Everywhere bots, which started in Denver. The Denver project was implemented by Code for America fellows and community volunteers. You can read more about the Denver project here:  What Open Data is Doing for Denver Dogs

The Austin implementation is a “fork” of the Denver code, rewritten in Python by Open Austin member Luqmaan Dawoodjee. It’s been published as open source.

Open Austin has been working with the Animal Services staff on open data issues. We hope that more information — and community produced tools — will be available soon.

New Resource: How to Use the City Data Portal

screenshot-data-portal-howtoYou may know that the City of Austin runs an open data portal, with more than 200 unique open government datasets.

The data portal, however, is much more than a mere file repository. It offers features that allow you to search, sort, roll-up, and graph the data. If the dataset has addresses, you can even generate maps of the data.

It’s a lot of capability — but people don’t always know it’s there. It would be great if we had a tool that helped explain how to use these features of the data portal.

At the ATX Hack for Change hackathon this past June, a team of volunteers developed a website to help people use some of the tools provided on the data portal. A hackathon prototype is great, but moving that to a released product is always a challenge.

So, we’re pleased  to announce their website is now available for use. Check it out:

How to Use the City of Austin Open Data Portal
http://atxdataportal.wikispaces.com/

Thanks to Juliette Kernion, Alane Fitzgerald, Chris McConnell, Marbenn Cayetano, Tim. and Gail Maynard for developing this resource and making it available to the community.

Open Gov & Civic Tech Meetup, Aug 25

Date: Mon, Aug 25, 2014
Time: 6:45 – 8:45 pm
Location: Terrazas Branch Library, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX, 78702 (map)
Calendar: link

Invited Guest: City of Austin Council Member Laura Morrison
Topic: City of Austin Open Government Initiative

Council Member Laura Morrison is a member of the Austin City Council and chairs the council’s committee on Emerging Technology and Telecommunications. She has sponsored the open government resolutions adopted by the City Council, as well as the budget amendment that led to the hiring of a Chief Innovation Officer for the city.

We’ve invited her to come speak about the current status of the open government initiative, and some of the challenges that lay ahead for these programs.

After the meetup, we’ll move across the street to Cenote cafe.

The meetup location is easily accessed by public transportation and has plentiful parking. If you park, however, be sure to move your car if you plan to come to Cenote. The lot is locked when the library closes.

The Open Austin Hack Team will have a check-in from 6:00 – 6:30 pm, in advance of the meetup. If you are a developer or designer who wants to work on hacking projects, please come for the check-in to find out what’s going on.

Open Austin hosts a monthly meet-up, to discuss local open government and civic technology issues. Our meet-ups are free and open to the public.

Civic Hackers & Advocates Meetup at SXSW 2015

Open Austin and Open Houston invite the SXSW Interactive 2015 community to join us for a meetup, to discuss how civic hackers and advocates are making their communities better.

 

This event currently is in the proposal stage.

If you would like to see this event on the SXSW Interactive schedule, visit the panel picker page for this session and leave your feedback: http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/37773

 

Open Gov & Civic Tech Meetup, Jul 21

Date: Mon, Jul 21, 2014
Time: 6:45 – 8:45 pm
Location: Terrazas Branch Library, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX, 78702 (map)
Calendar: link

Topic: The “No Topic” Summer Meetup
Invited Guests: none

We don’t have an invited speaker this month … but we’ve got a lot of interesting material to cover.

First, the Open Austin Hack Team has been busy advancing two projects that came out of the ATX Hackathon for Change. One is an information site for the November city council election. This election will be significant — both in scope and scale. The city is moving to single member districts, and every seat is up for grabs. There’s a lot for the community to learn about the new council plan, and a lot of candidates to consider. We hope the election website will be a great resource to voters.

Another project is the pet alerts website, which allows you to register for a notification whenever a stray pet is recovered. The team is close to ready to deploying a test site. We’ve also got the attention of the city, and they are interested in supporting our efforts to provide tools and open data to assist with shelter pet adoptions.

We’ll get updates on both these projects, what’s been done and what’s planned next.

Speaking of elections, Open Austin has been participating in city elections since 2011. Our candidate questionnaires have been a key tool to bring open data and civic technology issues into the city hall discussion. We’re planning to do it again this year — and it will be our biggest, most significant survey yet. We’ll tell you what’s planned, and ask for your feedback on what we should ask the candidates.

(Note: we work on elections as an independent, non-endorsing organization. We try to educate all the candidates on our issues, and work with everybody elected to advance open government policies.)

After the meetup, we’ll move across the street to Cenote cafe.

The meetup location is easily accessed by public transportation and has plentiful parking. If you park, however, be sure to move your car if you plan to come to Cenote. The lot is locked when the library closes.

The Open Austin Hack Team will have a check-in from 6:00 – 6:30 pm, in advance of the meetup. If you are a developer or designer who wants to work on hacking projects, please come for the check-in to find out what’s going on.

Open Austin hosts a monthly meet-up, to discuss local open government and civic technology issues. Our meet-ups are free and open to the public.

Open Gov & Civic Tech Meetup, Jun 16

Date: Mon, Jun 16, 2014
Time: 6:45 – 8:45 pm
Location: Terrazas Branch Library, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX, 78702 (map)
Calendar: link

Topic: After Hack: ATX Hack for Change
Invited Guests: Claire Dunn, Keith Casey

The second annual ATX Hack for Change was a great success. Over 150 people hacked for 20 hours, and presented 16 projects at the end of the weekend.

At our monthly meetup, we’ll discuss the outcomes of the hackathon, and how the community can “hack it forward” for the projects that emerged. Our invited guests are D. Keith Casey, Jr. (OP3Nvoice), the event emcee and national hackathon expert, and Claire Dunn (St. Edward’s University), the manager for the event.

We invite project champions to come to the meetup. We’ll provide an opportunity to present your project, and talk with participants about how it can be advanced.

If you participated in the hackathon, come provide your feedback. If you weren’t able to attend, this is your opportunity to connect with the projects, and get involved with future hack efforts.

After the meetup, we’ll move across the street to Cenote cafe.

The meetup location is easily accessed by public transportation and has plentiful parking. If you park, however, be sure to move your car if you plan to come to Cenote. The lot is locked when the library closes.

The Open Austin Hack Team will have a check-in from 6:00 – 6:30 pm, in advance of the meetup. If you are a developer or designer who wants to work on hacking projects, please come for the check-in to find out what’s going on.

Open Austin hosts a monthly meet-up, to discuss local open government and civic technology issues. Our meet-ups are free and open to the public.