CALL held its November Business Meeting at Wildfire Chicago restaurant, 159 W. Erie, on November 19, 2015. President-Elect Todd Ito called the meeting to order at noon and welcomed the slate of candidates for the 2016-2017 Board as well as the new CALL members. Recently joining CALL are Trezlen Drake and John Pickett of Northwestern University’s Pritzker Legal Research Center, and Peter Kaiser of Bloomberg BNA.
The candidates for the 2016-2017 Board were announced at the meeting.
Slate of Candidates for 2016-2017 Board
Joanne Kiley, International Legal Technology Association
Clare Willis, Chicago-Kent College of Law Library
Tom Gaylord, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law Library
Jill Meyer, Dykema
Therese Clarke Arado, Northern Illinois University College of Law Library
Lindsey Carpino, Sidley Austin
Vice President Todd Ito introduced and thanked our meeting sponsor, Bloomberg BNA. Kevin Skrzsowski spoke on behalf of BNA and was joined at the meeting by several Bloomberg BNA reps as well as Library Relations Director, Mike Bernier. Kevin spoke briefly on new and improved product offerings on the BLAW platform including Draft Analyzer, Litigation Analytics, and the Privacy Data Suite. He also announced that judicial analytics will be coming in 2016.
Meeting Speaker: Derek Eder
CALL Vice President Todd Ito introduced our meeting speaker, Derek Eder. Derek is an entrepreneur, developer, and one of the leaders of the civic technology community in Chicago. He is founder and partner at DataMade, a company that tells stories and builds tools with data, co-founder of Open City, a collective that makes civic apps to improve transparency and understanding of our government, and organizer for the Chi Hack Night, America’s premier weekly event for building civic technology with open data. He has built and collaborated on dozens of civic and data applications including 2nd City Zoning, Chicago Lobbyists, Look at Cook, Chicago Councilmatic, and Dedupe.
The title of Mr. Eder’s program was “What Problems Can Civic Tech Solve?” (slides available here).
Mr. Eder began by defining “civic tech” as “tools to create, support, and serve the public good.” He then provided a series of examples in which civic tech has been utilized successfully.
He first described a program to make government more transparent. ChicagoLobbyists.org tracks lobbyists’ pay, their clients, and the agencies to which the lobbyists gave their attention on issues on behalf of their clients. This website pulls data from the City of Chicago Data Portal.
The next project he discussed involved the long-running problem of any snow-laden city – getting your street plowed. ClearStreets.org was an Open City project to track the last time a street was plowed using data from the City of Chicago’s Plow Tracker. That information could then be cross-referenced with prominent Chicagoans residential addresses to look for perhaps unfair patterns compared to other areas of the city. The project discovered a particular city block that had not been visited by a snow plow over an entire winter season.
Mr. Eder illuminated how you can gross people out with data through the “IsThereSewageInTheChicagoRiver.com” website. This site is pulling data from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. The District sends out text and email alerts notifying subscribers of those alerts to Combined Sewer Overflow Events. That data feeds into the website map to show you daily updates on where sewage is going into the Chicago River.
Through the Large Lots project, Mr. Eder explained how they were able to provide better policy implementation of the city’s project to sell vacant residential lots for $1. The city’s Large Lots Program, part of the Green Healthy Neighborhoods process, allows an individual or business who live on or own property on a block to buy a vacant lot on that same block for $1. But the application process was very lengthy. LargeLots.org streamlined this process using a “shopping” interface that we’re all familiar with this. Many of these purchased lots have now been turned into community gardens. See this recent article published in the South Side Weekly on the progress of some of these projects.
Mr. Eder’s discussion of the Million Dollar Blocks project may have been the most striking. The project seeks to bring to light – through publicly available data – the cost of incarceration as compared to the cost of investing in communities. The data shows that the harshest and longest (and ultimately most expensive to taxpayers) sentences are given to those who live in segregated, low-income neighborhoods such as Austin, Humboldt Park, North Lawndale, West Englewood, and Roseland. Over a five year period, 2005-2009, there were 851 blocks that correlated with over $1 million per block committed to the cost of prison sentences for residents of those blocks. This project argues for the Justice Reinvestment approach to use comparably low-cost intervention programs such as workforce development and addiction treatment programs to reduce the rate of initial incarceration and later rate of recidivism.
You can nurture a new kind of civic participation
Lastly, Mr. Eder discussed a new kind of civic participating in the example of Chicago Hack Night. This weekly event gathers designers, academic researchers, journalists, activists, web developers and citizens to engage in a discussion of the application of civic tech. There is also a weekly presentation by an organization to discuss a recent project. Participants can also expand their technical skills and network with other civic-minded individuals. Mr. Eder extended an open invitation for all CALL members to attend these lively meetings.
CALL Member Questions
One member asked whether anyone from the City of Chicago had tried to shut down Mr. Eder’s efforts or projects. Derek responded that actually the city is usually very supportive. Another member asked what current projects he is working on. While Mr. Eder works on multiple projects at a time, he discussed the Illinois Sunshine project which uses contribution data from the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
A member then asked from where does Mr. Eder receive funding and whether his company has to work through the bidding system when working on City of Chicago projects. Mr. Eder said that some projects are funded by another non-profit organization that engages his organization and some are funded by the City of Chicago, such as the Large Lots program.
Lastly, a member asked whether there are any data visualization tools that he would recommend. Mr. Eder suggested Fusion Tables (Google) and CartoDB for maps, High Charts for charting, and Tabula as a beginner “out-of-the-box” tool. What his company does is far more customized though than what these products typically offer.
Social Media and Other Links
- Follow Derek on Twitter: @derekeder
- Follow DataMade on Twitter: @DataMadeCo
- Follow Chicago Hack Night on Twitter: @ChiHackNight
- Follow Open City on Twitter: @opencityapps
- Derek Eder: http://www.DerekEder.com
- Open City: http://opencityapps.org/
Carolyn Hersch, co-chair of the LAC’s volunteer subcommittee, put out a call for volunteers on behalf of the LAC to work the hospitality booth and host dine-arounds during the AALL Annual Meeting in Chicago this summer. If you are interested in volunteering please contact Carolyn (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Tom Gaylord and Scott Vanderlin are co-chairs of LAC’s library excursions subcommittee. Tom asked for libraries to volunteer to host formal and informal open houses. If you are interested in volunteering your library for such an event, please contact Tom (email@example.com) or Scott (firstname.lastname@example.org).
On behalf of Committee Co-Chair Kara Young, Todd Ito asked that when you send posts to the listserv, please consider also posting to the CALL website – just email Kara or Beth Schubert to post announcements. Also, please remember to follow CALL on social media such as Twitter (@CALLChicago), Facebook, or LinkedIn.
Food donations today will be given to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Monetary donations will go to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots program. Additionally, Committee Co-Chair Julie Swanson asked that members watch for additional volunteer opportunities posted by the Community Service Committee through the CALL website and listserv.
The business meeting door prizes – two Amazon gift cards – were donated by LexisNexis. Drawing winners were Deboarah Broadlow from Law Bulletin Publishing Company and Bill Schwesig from the University of Chicago.
The next CALL Business Meeting will be held at Nacional 27 on February 25, 2016.