New on EveryBlock: San Francisco calls for service

Sep252009

Today we’ve added a new data type in San Francisco — calls for service.

If you live in San Francisco, you’ll be notified any time the city gets notified about graffiti on private or public property, or someone requests a street or sidewalk cleaning, or asks that a pothole be filled.

This data comes from DataSF, a “central clearinghouse for datasets published by the City & County of San Francisco“. This is one of the most ambitious of the new projects being launched by municipalities to unleash public data for the common good. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, now running for Governor of the State of California, deserves a lot of credit for launching this project.

One thing I’ve learned during my work at EveryBlock is that it takes dozens of hard-working policy, operations, and technical people, toiling in city government for months and years, to achieve something like this. And we want to encourage more and more comprehensive programs like this all over the country. We’re just getting started in our goal to deliver news near you down to the block level. If you are a government official with access to data, we need help in the months and years to come. The open government data movement is picking up steam. We need more people like the leaders of DataSF all over the country.

Chief among these people is Edward Reiskin, who started as San Francisco 311 Director on the day I started at EveryBlock. He was an early believer in our work because he was a main force behind the creation of Washington, DC Citywide Data Warehouse, which has come to be known as the gold standard in the delivery of civic data in the U.S. This kind of cross-pollination among cities is a key to progress. Later, as Director of the San Francisco Department of Public Works, Ed had his staff set up feeds for excavation permits, street space permits, and street use permits more than a year and a half ago. And now nearly all of the data in the calls for service feed are items serviced by his department.

Nancy Alfaro, the Director of the 311 system in San Francisco, and Andy Maimoni, Deputy Director, also deserve a lot of credit for getting this data into the hands of the public. And Jay Nath, Innovations Manager at the Department of Technology and a leader of the DataSF project, has been a tireless worker on this stuff. He also worked with closely our Managing Editor, Paul Wilson, as he defined every service type in as much detail as possible. Often we get civic data that uses obscure terminology, so we try to do the work of defining things for our users; Jay has been a huge help here.

Behind these people are thousands more. Technology workers who built all the legacy data systems, GIS people who maintain street centerlines and district maps, public works laborers who put asphalt in holes, and even the citizens of San Francisco, who care enough about their block to make a call to 311.

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