What's New in Civic Tech: App Fosters Support for Kentucky Fiber Initiative

Plus, Chicago expands beach data in time for summer, LA maps its marijuana dispensaries, and Alaska's data goes to the dogs.

by / June 8, 2017

Kentucky Wired, a state-sponsored initiative to build an open-access fiber network for the delivery of high-speed Internet throughout Kentucky, is on the verge of being approved. And to ensure that it is, civic technologists have turned to the use of a platform that makes it easier for citizens to tell their representatives that they support it.

The platform, dubbed The Glass Capitol, makes it simple for users to support Kentucky Wired by helping them find and contact their representatives. It also provides a sample script to be followed during phone messages and calls.

Louisville Metro is partnering with Kentucky Wired and encouraging residents to support it, writing a Medium post on the matter. In the post, the benefits of the initiative are laid out alongside three steps supportive citizens can take:

  1. Call Metro Council Members and tell them to fund the Kentucky Wired Project.

  2. Attend the Metro Council budget hearing.

  3. Sign an open letter voicing support.

The city budget that includes funding for Kentucky Wired is slated to be finalized on June 22, giving residents about two weeks to express their opinions on this matter. Supporters say 25 of Louisville’s 26 districts will benefit from the project, which also stands to enhance city services such as traffic signals, public safety cameras and smart city technology.  

Chicago Expands Data About its Beaches in Time for Summer

Chicago can be a humid, sweltering city in the summer, filled with older buildings that don’t necessarily have central AC. Most anyone who has lived through a Chicago summer knows the utter glory of trading a hot summer day somewhere in the city for a trip to North Avenue Beach.

With that season upon the Second City, officials are working to ensure the health of these respite-seeking beachgoers by expanding the use of a rapid testing method to evaluate water safety. This method was used at nine beaches in 2016, and will now be expanded to all 20 of the city’s Lake Michigan beaches, providing results within 3 to 4 hours, instead of the 18 to 24 hours inherent to previous testing.

These test results are then available through Chicago Data Portal. A team of city, park district, and volunteer data scientists organized out of Chi Hack Night are now also working on an experimental technique to predict water safety at Chicago’s beaches based on DNA testing from a subset of them. City officials wrote in a release that the hope is that in future summers they will be able to manage their beaches more economically.

LA’s Office of City Controller Maps Locations of Marijuana Dispensaries

As recreational marijuana is set to become legal in California as of January 2018, the Los Angeles City Controller’s Office has created a map of the locations of medical marijuana dispensaries operating within the city, based on 2017 Business Tax Registration Certificates, prior BTRC’s and information about criminal cases from the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office as of May 2017.

The office detailed the reasoning and methods behind the creation of the map on its website. The site reports that economists estimate that first-year retail sales in Los Angeles for marijuana will likely approach $700 million. With voters in the city recently approving a business tax of up to 10 percent of gross receipts on recreational sales and 5 percent of medical sales of marijuana, the city may collect $50 million or more in resultant tax revenues for marijuana sales in 2018.

The map includes more than 1,500 locations. It also has a layer for the average household income by Census tract, and a toolbar at the top left corner of the map allows users to zoom in and out of a location, choose a layer to view, change the topography, or print it out and share it.

There is also a timeline here of the progress of marijuana laws in California, as well as a request for those who know of marijuana dispensaries operating illegally to avoid taxes to email atty.medicalmarijuana@lacity.org.

Data is for the Dogs: Anchorage, Alaska Maps Most Common Names for Local Pooches

The headline for this item is really self explanatory, don’t you think? Visit the map here, and have all your curiosity about dog monikers in Anchorage, Ala. satisfied. This project is a near-exact copy of a similar doggie data map launched by New York City, which you can visit here.

For those wondering, the top dog name in Anchorage is Bella, which also happens to be the top dog name in New York City. Without the wonders of data, we may have never realized the commonality between these two disparate cities.

Zack Quaintance Staff Writer

Zack Quaintance is a staff writer for Government Technology. Prior to that, he spent five years working in daily newspapers, and another five years working in the tech sector. He lives in Northern California.