By Andrew Noel | Special to Government Technology

GIS is proving to be a significant aspect in all levels of government. Earl Blumenauer is the biggest proponent of mapping Oregons governmental trails.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., has been an Oregon-elected official for over 25 years. He was born, raised and educated in Portland and has been a life-long resident of the 3rd Congressional District. Blumenauer was drawn to political and civic action out of the civil rights and anti-war activism of the 1960s. He began his political career while still in college, chairing a statewide campaign to lower Oregons voting age in 1969.

In 1972, at age 23, Blumenauer was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives by winning every precinct in his district. After completing three terms in the Legislature (1973, 1975, 1977), Blumenauer was elected and served eight years (two terms from 1978 to 1985) on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, specializing in government reform, budget, finance and transportation.

Blumenauer was first elected to the Portland City Council in 1986, winning re-election in 1990 and again in 1994 with 70 percent of the vote. While on the city council, Blumenauer showed his strength as an innovative and effective leader, contributing to Portlands reputation as one of the countrys most livable urban areas.

What does GIS offer for state and local governments in the United States?

Governments, at all levels, collect a massive amount of data -- everything from the census to the distribution of public funds. GIS is a powerful tool for elected officials, planners and community activists to better understand and visualize the impacts of investment decisions, development and demographic trends, and the complex nature of environmental ecosystems. GIS can provide easy-to-understand computer maps that show different aspects of a region or community -- which can help state and local governments make more informed [and] collaborative decisions about regional growth, public investments, land-use and natural resource management.

Currently, great efforts are being made by the public and private sectors to improve the quality of the data being collected and also to improve our ability to use multiple sources of data in a single application. GIS is one of the most exciting means of achieving both goals. For example, numerous communities are using information collected by HUD on its state block grant programs and overlaying this with geo-coded census and infrastructure information to uncover

economic-development trends and opportunities in lower-income neighborhoods.

Federal agencies have been working with communities to improve data collection and develop GIS applications for a variety of uses. The Federal Transit Administration recently completed geo-coding all of the fixed transit routes in the country and overlaying this data with

census information and hours of service information. This information is available on the Internet and can be used by communities to determine potential route or scheduling changes or determine the overall effectiveness of a transit system to serve targeted populations.

The Department of the Interior, working with communities across the country, is developing GIS databases for use on a wide array of applications to address locally determined environmental concerns. Examples include mapping potential seismic activity in the Pacific Northwest and overlaying this with emergency evacuation routes and projecting the long-term environmental impacts of mining in northeastern Pennsylvania on water quality and regional ecosystems.

What are the greatest benefits of using GIS in urban planning?

The fact that accredited planning programs now require graduate students to learn GIS demonstrates its importance as a tool in the planning process. Urban planners have the difficult task of taking a comprehensive look at a variety of factors influencing the future and long-term health of a community such as projected development, demographic projections, environmentally sensitive areas and the condition of the built environment. GIS not only assists in mapping all of this information, but