Jason Baker's blog

Chapel Hill Hosts Open Data Event This Saturday

In case you missed it, the Town of Chapel Hill launched an open data portal this past summer, joining several other local area Triangle governments who have made strides in releasing government data to the public in an easily consumable fashion. Data sets range from fire incidents to library circulation to budget data, and hopefully we'll see more added over time. Even if you're new to working with data, the portal includes some basic charting and map-building functionality that are simple enough that almost anyone can use them.

This Saturday, the town is hosting an event to bring together interested parties to figure out what kinds of interesting things can be done with the data, explore, and build something cool. I'll be there and I hope you will too.

Can Visualizations Help Create Better Public Input Processes?

It seems like a cornerstone assumption of any democratic process that the more people who are involved, the better. I absolutely believe this. Whether it’s registering voters, encouraging people to volunteer for town boards, making avenues for giving public input easier, or asking whose voice is missing from the table any time a group of people are gathered, we all have a role to play in increasing the quantity and diversity of people who are involved in making decisions.

But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to increase the quality, not just the quantity, of public input in decision-making processes. And I don’t mean berating ordinary citizens for not being public policy experts. Far from it. The responsibility to help people make better decisions sits with those people asking for the input to begin with. And in the case of local governments, the responsibility sits with the governing bodies, and by extension, the staffs, who are managing public input processes.

Correcting the Record on the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project

The June 29, 2016, "Off the Rails" INDY Week piece by David Hudnall, which discusses the Durham-Orange light rail transit project (DOLRT) is a poorly researched opinion piece that does a tremendous disservice to INDY Week readers, residents of Durham and Chapel Hill, and—most importantly—current public transit riders in Durham and Orange counties who stand to benefit greatly from a significantly enhanced bus and rail transit network with DOLRT at its core.

Get Involved with Open Government in the Triangle

It's time to start thinking about how to get the western edge of the Triangle more involved in the growing community of open government events taking place this year. As a past attendee of several of these events, I wanted to make sure these upcoming events are on your radar, and ask you to get involved in the growing collaboration between civically minded citizens and the fast-growing local tech sector.

Commissioner Candidates Share Positions with Local NAACP

Last night, I attended the Chapel Hill - Carrboro NAACP forum for county commissioner candidates, where all nine candidates for four seats were in attendance. Candidates answered a variety of questions on everything from the upcoming bond referendum to affordable housing to charter schools. In case you missed it, here's a recap of the coverage of the event on Twitter, which I live-tweeted via @OrangePolitics. Thanks to Editor Emeritus Damon Seils for providing some excellent color commentary on the night.

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