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What’s New in Civic Tech: Oklahoma City Seeks First Innovation Officer

Plus, Code for America and L.A. County dismiss 66,000 marijuana convictions; Philadelphia’s Pitch and Pilot program tackles tap water with new challenge; and NYU calls on Congress to embrace citizen engagement tech.

by / February 13, 2020
Oklahoma City, Okla. Shutterstock/Sean Pavone

Oklahoma City is searching for its first ever chief innovation officer. 

The job posting is online here. Essentially, the chief innovation officer in Oklahoma City is a new position, one that would be appointed by the city manager and report to the assistant city manager. The person tapped for this role would then be tasked with fostering innovation across local government agencies. 

“The chief innovation officer will work with internal partners on behalf of the city manager to develop, test, and encourage best practices in local government with the goal of fostering a culture of data use, innovation and continuous improvement throughout the organization,” the posting reads. “Both technological and operational solutions will be pursued to provide effective and efficient services to residents.”

Another part of the job would be creating partnerships both inside and outside of government, leveraging those partnerships in the service of a new smart city strategy and generating new ideas. 

The job is seperate from the usual IT governance positions found in city hall. That sort of day-to-day work in Oklahoma City falls to an IT director position. The new position of chief innovation officer would instead be tasked with coming up with innovative ways to improve processes in City Hall, involving smart city and data work to enhance service delivery.   

This position is a relatively new one in American local government, having mostly taken hold in larger jurisdictions in the past decade. Oklahoma City moving to add one marks a major step forward for innovation work there. 

Code for America, L.A. County Partner to Dismiss 66,000 Marijuana Convictions

Code for America, a national nonprofit and nonpartisan civic tech group, has teamed with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office on a project to dismiss 66,000 marijuana convictions.

The dismissed convictions were eligible for relief under California’s new marijuana legalization laws that were instituted by Proposition 64.The collaborative project, in the simplest terms, used tech to clear the eligible dismissals without individuals having to do anything and with minimal extension of work hours from public servants. The project, dubbed Clear My Record, is one Code for America has now brought to all of the most populous counties in California, including San Francisco, San Joaquin and Contra Costa. All told, the effort has reduced or dismissed more than 85,000 eligible convictions.

This latest effort saw prosecutors asking the L.A. Superior Court to dismiss 62,000 felony cannabis convictions, some of which stem from cases that date as far back as 1961. In addition, officials also sought dismissals for 4,000 misdemeanor possession cases, all of which took case in L.A. County, the most populous county in the nation, home as it is to cities like Los Angeles, Long Beach, Pasadena, Burbank and others.

Clear My Record, which is still a pilot program, has proven so successful in California that jurisdictions in other parts of the country have reached out to Code for America about collaborations, specifically in Cook County, Ill., which is home to Chicago. 

Clear My Record is a no-cost, open-source application that Code for America has made available to all of California, and it ranks among the most impactful examples of civic tech in the U.S.

Philadelphia Pitch and Pilot Program Tackles Tap Water with New Prize Challenge

Philadelphia’s Pitch and Pilot Program, which is a concentrated effort by the local government in that city to support private businesses that tackle community challenges, has put out a call for a new round of solutions.

This time, the city is asking startups to create projects that promote tap water usage. The idea is for the program to bolster tap water access and appeal by teaming up with private companies that can help with traditional tech and innovation areas, including data, sensors and other technical tools that drive results-driven work. 

Applications are currently open, and will close on Feb. 27. The winning company will receive as much as $34,000 in the service of piloting its proposed solution. Afterward, Philadelphia’s Office of Innovation and Technology and other participating departments will work with the company through June.  

The Pitch and Pilot Program is part of Philadelphia’s IT Strategic Plan, which is aimed at helping the city reach economic, environmental and other goals with tech. It was first launched back in December, with the challenge at that time to help Philadelphia reach zero waste. The city has not yet announced the winner for the first challenge, although applications have been submitted. 

NYU Governance Lab Calls on Congress to Use Tech for Citizen Engagement

The Governance Lab at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering has called on Congress to use its new CrowdLaw for Congress platform to promote citizen engagement and participation in the federal lawmaking process.

In support of CrowdLaw for Congress, Professor Beth Simone Noveck, who is the director of the Governance Lab, appeared before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee last week, announcing its launch and advocating for its usage. CrowdLaw as a concept means tapping public expertise to improve the quality and effectiveness of the legislative process. CrowdLaw is a complex concept, but it has been used with growing frequency worldwide. The exact uses vary, but what it means is using tech to collect public input, giving government insights to how constituents feel that ideally has more validity than traditional polling.

A key part of CrowdLaw for Congress is sharing successful examples of its usage from other countries such as the U.K., Spain, and Chile with the U.S. Congress, aiming to make its use common here as well. 

“CrowdLaw for Congress is a groundbreaking attempt to champion the movement toward more modern, valid and constructive methods of law and policymaking,” Noveck said in a statement. “By publishing this curated set of complementary case studies and interviews, we aim to reach lawmakers, practitioners, researchers, academics and the general public, and urge them to push for CrowdLaw methods to be fully institutionalized here in the United States and around the world.”

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Zack Quaintance Assistant News Editor

Zack Quaintance is the assistant news editor for Government Technology. His background includes writing for daily newspapers across the country and developing content for a software company in Austin, Texas. He is now based in Washington, D.C. He can be reached via email.

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