Local GeoPolitics and EveryBlock

“All politics is local.”
-Tip O’Neill

With so much attention going on in the primaries, it’s easy to forget that most of what really matters is local. I’ve decided not to tell you who I think should be the next president. Instead, I’d like to encourage you to campaign for more local government transparency. We should be examining Everyblock, and it’s implications on local government.

A lot of the work done by Everyblock involves sifting through on-line documents for geotags. Everyblock says they are publishing data from city governments:

“building permits, crimes, restaurant inspections and more. In many cases, this information is already on the Web but is buried in hard-to-find government databases. In other cases, this information has never been posted online, and we’ve forged relationships with governments to make it available.”

What if we lobbied our local city governments to publish RSS (and GeoRSS) feeds for all of their activities? Why should Everyblock be given a special treatment?

Not only would this would greatly increase transparency, but would also allow us in the geocommunity more opportunities for doing value-added analysis. (No we’re not a gang (or special interest group) – we’re just a club.) City staff is already required public notification for lots of things like zoning variances. We just need to push them to do it with RSS.

Here in San Antonio the city has gone to great efforts to streamline the process a real estate developer must go through to gain approval of a project. I would really like to see a map of pending projects in my area, and get notification when the project’s status changes.


2 comments so far

  1. Dan O'Neil on


    You’re right-on when you talk about getting people to lobby for more data out of municipal governments. We only cover a few cities, and the more people doing this, the better. Here are some links to resources and organizations focused on this:

    8 Principles of Open Government Data: http://resource.org/8_principles.html

    Open Government Google Group: http://groups.google.com/group/open-government/

    The Info, a site for large data sets and the people who love them: http://theinfo.org/

    To be clear, we don’t seek any special treatment at EveryBlock from governments. We never ask for any exclusive arrangements– our goal is that the data be open to all.

    Thanks again for posting about EveryBlock and encouraging a broader campaign for more transparency in local government.

  2. Kyle Schaper on

    My thoughts exactly…

    Although Great Britain based, and currently only email, http://www.planningalerts.com/ is applying this very concept. Now imagine subscribing to a geoRSS feed of requests for comp plan amendments, rezonings, variances, etc., localized to a user-defined radius of a neighborhood or address.

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