Governor's Office of Planning and Research; the Governor's Office of Emergency Services and the state CIO.

In March 2001, a workshop was convened to brainstorm and set the vision for the new GIS Council. State sponsors of the council, other members of the former council and various interested parties attended the workshop. The outcome was a revised charter and a restructured membership that was of a more manageable size and better suited to focus on policy.

The reconstituted California GIS Council (CGC) met for the first time on Aug. 13, 2003.

"On the council, we have representation from 17 regional coordinating groups around California," said Joe Concannon, senior planner at the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and region representative. "They are all arranged a little differently. Some are very formal, like the San Francisco Bay area. We are probably in the middle. Some are very informal, like the North Coast Users Group."

Current Objectives

So far, the resurrected council has only met twice, and priorities for the council are still being hammered out. Ellison said the top priority, however, is to push the state to appoint a GIS officer to coordinate GIS efforts on an ongoing basis, just as many other states have. In fact, this is one point now included in the NSGIC's state model for GIS coordination.

"That was probably the single most important recommendation made by the original Geographic Information Task Force back in 1993 -- that the state should form the office of the GIS officer," said Ellison. "In other words, just as the state has a CIO, the state should have a GIO as well. Obviously that recommendation was never acted on, and that continues to be the primary objective and hope of California's GIS community."

Because imagery is so important and expensive, the council requested federal funding for imagery acquisition.

"The council is seeking a $4 million one-time cost, followed with an ongoing grant of approximately $200,000 a year until the program can be self-maintaining," said Ellison. "The idea is to bring enough money to the table so other folks who are already investing in imagery could do so in a collaborative fashion. They could take their existing investments and leverage them into a more communal acquisition process. Basically we are looking for a reasonably high-resolution satellite image for the entire state -- a one meter or better, multispectral, multicolor image."

Another priority for the council is the development of better GIS metadata -- data about data.

"To a lay person, it would be like a library's card catalog," said Richard Mader of the Southern California GIS Government Users Group, who is also on the council's metadata work group. "It gives you enough information about the data so you know where and what it is, and spatial data has certain other requirements because of the spatial accuracy and so forth."

The council is also seeking to promote better exchange of information on what local jurisdictions are planning, such as acquiring aerial photography and exploring the formation of partnerships to save money.

Through coordinated efforts, redundancies can be eliminated. Data can be collected once and used many times by different agencies and jurisdictions, and that is only the beginning of benefits and cost-savings, said the California GIS Council's Hansen.

"We also know GIS is absolutely essential to keeping our communities safe, and to more effectively manage large disasters, water issues, policing and fire issues," she said. "A lot of these maps are used by government to plan and improve a host of services in a community. Better management also can save money.

"But there is only so much a council with no funding can do. Some money is needed to do the job right, and we are not even talking about a lot of money compared to so many other appropriations."

Blake Harris  |  Contributing Editor