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What's New in Civic Tech: CfA Helps Utah Clear Some Convictions

Plus, a new online dashboard displays Tennessee's redistricting changes; New York City launches bill payment kiosks; MetroLab announces categories to the Civic Innovation Challenge; and more.

Digital_Equity31
Code for America (CfA) is collaborating with Utah to help automatically clear the eligible convictions of roughly 500,000 people under the state's new Clean Slate law, the civic tech group announced this week.

This new partnership is part of CfA's ongoing work to make automatic record clearance policies like this one a national standard, work that traces its roots back to a pilot program in California, dubbed Clear My Record. The group now reports that through partnerships like these with state governments, it has helped to enable the clearance of millions of eligible convictions across the country.

The process behind this work essentially uses technology that can automatically identify any convictions eligible to be cleared via the relevant court conviction data, running it through an eligibility algorithm. In this partnership, the Utah Administrative Office of the Courts is now adopting CfA's code and other technical processes so that it can identify and continually clear eligible convictions on its own.

This tech work has become especially relevant in recent years as more states have passed legislation aimed at criminal justice reform, ranging from clearing older convictions to decriminalizing marijuana. In Utah's case, the state's new law clears the old and minor records of individuals who have remained crime free for a certain period of time.

More information about civic technologists working in this way to clear records can be found on CfA's website. (Zack Quaintance)


NEW ONLINE DASHBOARD DISPLAYS TENNESSEE’S REDISTRICTING CHANGES


A new online dashboard from the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office — dubbed Tennessee District Lookupallows Tennesseans to see where their addresses now fall in legislative districts.

This project aims to create transparency around political redistricting in the state. That redistricting process, completed at a state and local level in 2021 and 2022, happens every 10 years and impacts millions of addresses across the state.

“This easy-to-use dashboard is a simple way to see how you and your family will be represented in future elections,” said Comptroller of the Treasury Jason Mumpower in the announcement.

The dashboard has the updated legislative district information for county commissions, the state House, state Senate and the U.S. Congress. For those in certain localities, it will also include voting precinct and other information. Some information will likely be updated over time. Tennesseans can search by address to see new and prior precinct information. (Julia Edinger)

NEW YORK CITY INCREASES ACCESSIBILITY FOR BILL PAYMENTS WITH SELF-SERVICE KIOSKS


The New York City Department of Finance (NYCDOF) has deployed self-service kiosks at its business centers in the Bronx and Queens to make it more convenient and accessible for city residents to make bill payments.

Offering instructions in both English and Spanish, the CityBase kiosks are expected to speed up the payment process and reduce person-to-person contact — an important feature during the COVID-19 pandemic. Payments can be made with cash, check or card without additional fees, which aims to improve the payment experience for the city’s vulnerable populations.

The announcement came this week, in which NYCDOF Commissioner Preston Niblack noted that the plan is to extend kiosk coverage citywide during 2022. These kiosks have been implemented in other cities — like Chicago — to increase accessibility, with a total of 119 kiosks expected to be available there by the end of June 2022. (Julia Edinger)

METROLAB ANNOUNCES TRACKS FOR CIVIC INNOVATION CHALLENGE


The MetroLab Network has announced that climate change and service equity will be the two tracks for the next Civic Innovation Challenge.

MetroLab partners on that challenge with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy. The aim of the challenge is to fund ready-to-implement, research-based pilot projects that have the potential to help communities overcome obstacles. These solutions must also be scalable, sustainable and transferable.

The idea — in keeping with much of MetroLab's work — is to break down barriers that prevent universities and communities from working together. The first cohort of Civic Innovation Challenge participants is underway now.

Proposals for the second round of the challenge are due by May 5. If selected, projects are eligible to earn as much as $1 million to help make ideas a reality. (Zack Quaintance)

BRANDY REITTER STARTS AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF COLORADO BROADBAND OFFICE


Finally, this week marked the start of the Colorado Broadband Office (CBO) Executive Director Brandy Reitter’s service in her new role.

Reitter was first announced as being slated for this role in December 2021, and she brings over 15 years of experience in local government with her. This week’s announcement notes that Reitter will direct state and federal funding expenditures in this role with a focus on digital literacy and inclusion, in addition to building out the staff and processes to better handle the new funding.

The CBO was formed in 2016 to support and coordinate broadband efforts across state agencies in the goal of expanding coverage for all Coloradans. (Julia Edinger)
Associate editor for Government Technology magazine
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.