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What’s New in Civic Tech: U.S. Senate Passes Measure Repealing Changes to Net Neutrality

Plus, Long Beach, Calif., receives grant for lab to create innovation tools for first responders; Tulsa, Okla., wins Cities of Service’s inaugural Engaged Cities Award; and Portland, Ore., welcomes new Code for America brigade.

by / May 17, 2018

The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday, May 16 to pass a measure aimed at repealing the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to roll back net neutrality protections.

The measure will now go to the U.S. House of Representatives, where experts say it is unlikely to progress. The original decision to roll back net neutrality protections passed during the Obama administration was made by the Republican-controlled FCC last year. Wednesday’s vote saw all 49 Senate Democrats vote in favor of the measure, as well as Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John Kennedy of Louisiana. The Republican-led House, however, is not expected to support it, nor is President Donald Trump.

Critics of the decision to roll back net neutrality protections — a group that includes tech and innovation leaders from many prominent municipal governments across the country — have warned that repealing them would give too much control to private Internet service providers. That increased control could enable companies to throttle connectivity speeds for some sites while ramping them up for other sites who pay more — a reality that opponents say would be a blow to a wide range of groups, from public schools to local governments to residents of rural areas.   

Meanwhile, an increasing number of state and local governments have moved to create protections and workarounds for net neutrality within their jurisdictions, ranging from executive orders by the governors of states like Montana, New Jersey and Vermont to laws passed in Oregon and Washington.

Long Beach, Calif., receives grant for lab to create innovation tools for first responders

Long Beach, Calif., recently announced that the city has received a pair of grants totaling $1 million, which will fund a lab for creating tools that first responders can use to redirect residents from the criminal justice system toward resources like treatment and care.

The grants, which both come from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, will fund the Long Beach Justice Lab, according to a press release from the city. The lab grew out of a partnership between Long Beach’s Innovation Team (i-team) and the Long Beach Public Safety Continuum. The first grant will fund the implementation of one initiative and will help city and county service providers better coordinate their efforts to help residents get mental health care, substance abuse treatment and homeless services. The other will enable researchers to crosscheck data with the police, health and fire departments, among others.

The second grant will facilitate work done by the i-team in collaboration with California State University, Long Beach and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), with a feasibility study and randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of the Justice Lab’s method of service planning and care management for people who often come into contact with police or other first responders.

The end goal of all the work is to help public servants better collaborate between departments as they work to stabilize individuals in a way that benefits the health of the community.

Tulsa, Okla., wins Cities of Service’s inaugural Engaged Cities Award

Cities of Service has announced that Tulsa, Okla., is the sole American recipient of its inaugural Engaged Cities award, which highlights city-led strategies that successfully engage citizens.

Tulsa will receive a prize of $70,000 that can be used at the city’s discretion in support of furthering its efforts to engage citizens in the service of tackling problems, according to a press release announcing the winners. Tulsa’s challenge was that it had hundreds of data sets that could potentially help it grow per capita income, increase population, reduce violent crime and address many other challenges, but it lacked capacity to analyze that data for insights. As part of the competition, the city created teams of staff, citizens and nonprofit partners to examine the data with an eye toward alleviating more than a dozen public problems.

Tulsa is one of three international winners, the others being Bologna, Italy, and Santiago de Cali, Colombia. The Engaged Cities Award was open to any city in the Americas or Europe with a population of more than 30,000 residents. More than 100 applicants vied for the prize, and last month 10 finalists were selected, including five from the United States.

The award is part of Michael Bloomberg’s American Cities Initiative, which is designed to empower city leaders to generate new ideas, advancing policy in a way that moves the entire nation forward.

Portland, Ore., welcomes new Code for America brigade

Code for America’s newest brigade is located in Portland, Ore.

Dubbed Code for PDX, the organization will hold its first meeting on Thursday, May 31, and, according to an event invitation, the meetup will involve “discussing the organization, possible projects, as well as a general meet and greet.”

Code for America is a nonprofit and nonpolitical organization with a mission of using technology to make government function more efficiently for constituents. It’s network of brigades includes 65 participating groups in cities across the country.

The brigades are aimed at convening technologists and others interested in assisting with Code for America’s mission at the local level. Code for PDX marks the first brigade in the state of Oregon.

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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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