July 17, 2013



The Nation’s First ‘Open Law’ City, Baltimore Launches a New Online Platform that Makes the City’s Charter and Code Accessible and User-Friendly for All

BALTIMORE, MD. (July 17, 2013) – The City of Baltimore’s Chief Technology Officer Chris Tonjes and the non-partisan, non-profit OpenGov Foundation announced today the launch of BaltimoreCode.org, a free software platform that empowers all Baltimore residents to discover, access, and use local laws when they want, and how they want.

VIDEO: Putting the Law On Your Side with BaltimoreCode.org

BaltimoreCode.org lifts and ‘liberates’ the Baltimore City Charter and Code from unalterable, often hard to find online files —such as PDFs—by inserting them into user-friendly, organized and modern website formats.  This straightforward switch delivers significant results:  more clarity, context, and public understanding of the laws’ impact on Baltimore citizens’ daily lives. For the first-time, BaltimoreCode.org allows  uninhibited reuse of City law data by everyday Baltimore residents to use, share, and spread as they see fit. Simply, BaltimoreCode.org gives citizens the information they need, on their terms.

As BaltimoreCode.org evolves to meet the growing needs of Baltimore citizens, stakeholders, and public servants, Baltimore residents will soon have access to court decisions, information from legislative tracking services and legal definitions at their fingertips in real-time.

BaltimoreCode.org will also expand to house technical city standards, from building regulations and health ordinances, to zoning restrictions and fire codes.  Much like Google, BaltimoreCode.org offers the ability to search City existing and proposed laws by section, topic, and tags.

Baltimore City Chief Technology Officer Chris Tonjes noted, “BaltimoreCode.org is a great tool with the potential to increase citizens’ understanding of and interaction with our Code and Charter. This will lead to a more robust civic dialog and ultimately a more transparent government, a key goal of this administration.  BaltimoreCode.org is just the latest step in a broad effort to increase transparency, civic engagement, and building off OpenBaltimore, access to data.”

The Charter and Code are continually updated to reflect new legislation on OpenBaltimore.com in Microsoft Word or XML formats.  “Having the code in these file formats will make searching, studying, and learning about our laws much more efficient,” said Baltimore City Chief Data Officer Heather Hudson.

With the launch of BaltimoreCode.org, Baltimore leads city-level deployment of the groundbreaking State Decoded open law project, becoming America’s first known “open law” city.  Earlier this year, Maryland became the third “open law” state when the OpenGov team worked side-by-side with state officials to liberate the Maryland Code of Public Laws at MarylandCode.org.

BaltimoreCode.org is one of 10 projects produced during Baltimore’s Hack for Change civic hackathon in June by a team from the OpenGov Foundation, built on The State Decoded platform.  The State Decoded code is available on Github.

Seamus Kraft of the OpenGov Foundation congratulated Baltimore City for being the first City to unlock their Charter and Code with the State Decoded platform.  “Baltimore City’s leadership reflects the Mayor’s commitment to transparency and civic engagement. It’s been great to work with such a vibrant civic digital community and dedicated public servants working to make their community more open and user-friendly.  Baltimore is becoming a model city, for Maryland and all of America, by using free technology to improve every citizen’s ability to access vital civic information and participate in local government.”

The State Decoded is an open-source software platform and API used to display states’ law codes. The free platform was originally developed in 2010 thanks to a generous grant from the Knight Foundation.  The State Decoded has since grown to include the Maryland, Virginia, and Florida codes, with more states and cities in the process of joining.  Committed to using taxpayer dollars effectively and efficiently, OpenGov and State Decoded teams have partnered to  ‘liberate’ the law online in every state, city and town in America…at absolutely no cost to citizens or governments.

Mayor’s Office of Information Technology, moit.baltimorecity.gov
The Mayor’s Office of Information Technology (MOIT) is the City of Baltimore’s central IT agency providing Citywide technology services and support. MOIT is led by CTO Chris Tonjes who also serves as the Mayor’s senior advisor on all matters relating to technology and innovation.

CONTACT
Renee Samuels, Chief of Staff
Mayor’s Office of Information Technology
Renee.samuels@baltimorecity.gov (email Link)
410-834-2813

The OpenGov Foundation, http://opengovfoundation.org/
The OpenGov Foundation is dedicated to developing and deploying technologies that support every citizen’s ability to participate in government, and hold it accountable. The State Decoded is a project launched by Waldo Jaquith and built upon by the OpenGov Foundation, both with funding by a grant from the Knight Foundation.  Visit http://www.statedecoded.com/contact/ for more information.

CONTACT
Seamus Kraft, Executive Director
OpenGov Foundation
seamus@opengovfoundation.org (email link)

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