Monthly Archives: September 2013

City of San Francisco and OpenGov Launch SanFranciscoCode.org

San Francisco Becomes America’s Second ‘Open Law’ City, Launching New Online Platform that Makes the City’s Charter and Codes Accessible and User-Friendly for Everyone

San Francisco, CA (September 26, 2013) – The non-partisan, non-profit OpenGov Foundation is proud to announce the launch of SanFranciscoCode.org, a free online platform that empowers every San Francisco resident to discover, access and use local laws on their terms, when they want and how they want.  Powered by modern website design and the latest open data innovations, SanFranciscoCode.org makes the single most important information in the city – the law itself – fully available and useful to citizens for the first time, without barriers or restrictions.  This new legal access platform is built upon coder-friendly law data announced today by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.

 

SanFranciscoCode.org lifts and liberates the city laws from difficult to use, frustrating and often hard to find unstructured online formats by upgrading them into user-friendly, organized and modern website versions that everyone uses.  These straightforward improvements deliver powerful results: greater context, clarity and comprehension of the city laws’ impact on Bay Area residents’ daily lives.  For example, SanFranciscoCode.org allows restriction-free reuse of the all the City legal information by everyday San Francisco citizens, empowering them to share it, spread it and build their lives – and apps – securely.  Simply put, SanFranciscoCode.org provides the information everyone in the city needs in the way everyone wants it: on their own terms.
Job creators and businesses have a powerful ally in SanFranciscoCode.org, providing a powerful search feature that puts the latest technical city standards – from zoning regulations and health ordinances, to environmental restrictions and fire codes – at their fingertips.  The San Francisco civic hacking and software developer communities can tap into the law via bulk downloads, open data and APIs.  And as SanFranciscoCode.org grows to meet the evolving needs of city residents, public servants and stakeholders, users will be able to access real time legislative information, tracking and notification services, and plain language legal interpretations.
The move to open and modernize San Francisco’s laws online began with a bi-coastal “hackathon” last month.  Dubbed “Operation Decode SF,” the work began with Mayor Lee and American Legal releasing all of the city’s raw, unstructured law data on GitHub.  Late into the night, the OpenGov team in Washington, DC worked with city officials and civic hackers assembled in San Francisco to begin breaking down the messy information into the organized, accessible and modern formats you see today.

With the launch of SanFranciscoCode.org, the city becomes America’s second “Open Law City,” following the July debut of BaltimoreCode.org.  It is the second municipal deployment of the State Decoded open law project, with a number of other major cities and states under development by the OpenGov Foundation.  Earlier this year, the state of Maryland became the third Open Law state when the OpenGov team worked with state officials to liberate the Maryland Code of Public Laws at MarylandCode.org.  The State Decoded code is available – at $0 cost – on Github.com.

“The law is the single most important data set that exists in San Francisco, yet it has been the hardest for residents and job creators to find, access and use when they need it most,” said OpenGov Executive Director Seamus Kraft.  “SanFranciscoCode.org is a big step towards removing those frustrating barriers that still exist, increasing access, enhancing usability and removing restrictions for all people, from everyday citizens to civic hackers and city officials.  Democratic communities thrive when everyone has equal information and the chance to act on it.  That’s the goal of SanFranciscoCode.org.”

The State Decoded is an open-source software platform developed to display states’ and cities’ law codes, judicial opinions, rules and regulations in the most modern, user-friendly and accessible way possible. The free platform was originally developed in 2010 by Waldo Jaquith thanks to a generous grant from the Knight Foundation.  The State Decoded has since grown to include the Maryland, Virginia, and Florida codes.  Committed to using taxpayer dollars effectively and efficiently, the OpenGov and State Decoded teams have partnered to liberate the law online in every state, county, city and town in America…at little-to-no cost to citizens or governments.

Contact Information

Seamus Kraft, OpenGov Executive Director & Handyman
Email: Seamus@opengovfoundation.org
Phone: 760-659-0631

Jay Nath, San Francisco Chief Innovation Officer
Email: jay.nath@sfgov.org
Phone: 415-554-6131

Quick Links & Crucial Clicks

A Gift For You: New Feature Added to BaltimoreCode.org

BaltimoreCode.org just got better for you.  Check out the short feature description and tutorial below, and if you like what you see, please consider sharing the news with your friends.  And we’re here to help it work for you: if you get stuck or have questions, click here to email us and we’ll get back to you right away. 

Without further ado, the new and improved feature!

Today, BaltimoreCode.org doesn’t just give you a Google-level law search engine.  It doesn’t just give you a modern, user-friendly experience.  Now, you can speak out and comment directly on the laws of Baltimore City.  

That’s right.  When you discover a law that isn’t working well for Baltimoreans, or that is a massive headache for you, you can quickly and easily identify it right there on the same page.

 

Have a Baltimore law you want changed?  3 steps to get started speaking out.

 

1. Come Visit BaltimoreCode.org

2. Click and Discover the Baltimore City Law You Want

 

3. Comment Away Right At the Bottom of Each Baltimore City Law

We will deliver it directly to your elected city officials, and when we get responses, deliver them to you in the same place on BaltimoreCode.org.  It’s that simple: search, discover, speak out.

Holding Baltimore government accountable AND improving the laws of the city?  That’s what open government means, and that’s what BaltimoreCode.org can do for you.  It’s simply how democracy should work today.

Thank you for being a fantastic early adopter, and for choosing BaltimoreCode.org for all your city law needs.  Please consider sharing this new feature email with a colleague, with a family member or a friend, so they can enjoy the benefits of modern, user-friendly and accessible law.  

Because friends don’t let friends get stuck with yesterday’s technology.

Fighting to Open Up the Constitution Annotated

We believe Americans should have unfettered access to our most important document – America’s source code – the U.S. Constitution. Yet the up-to-date version of the Constitution Annotated – the continuously updated “master copy” – is only published for the general public every two years, and is not available at any time as structured open data.  Two problems here.  First, only government insiders have real-time access.  And second, the Constitution is not up to modern accessibility standards.  Daniel Schuman and Matt Rumsey broke it down Tuesday:

We believe the public should have the benefit of these ongoing updates and Congress’ Joint Committee on Printing agreed. The Committee directed the Library of Congress and the Government Printing Office (GPO) to make the Constitution Annotated available online to the public as it is updated. Earlier today, GPO released the treatise on an iPhone app and website. Unfortunately, the effort falls short of the mark.”

That’s why we joined Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, GovTrack.us, the Sunlight Foundation, the Oyez Project and Justia to urge the Public Printer of the United States to open the Constitution Annotated.  Click here to read the full letter.

If you like what you see, we’d appreciate a tweet or retweet.

Letter Link: http://bit.ly/ConstitutionLetter

Tweet #1

Shouldn’t citizens have modern, open access to the Constitution? I do and @FoundOpenGov is pushing for it. LETTER: http://bit.ly/ConstitutionLetter

Tweet #2

Current Constitution Annotated should be open to all citizens, not just govt insiders. Learn More: http://bit.ly/ConstitutionLetter #opendata

We’ll keep you posted as this develops.