Category Archives: Uncategorized - Page 3

The Field of GIS

To kick of Geography Awareness Week, here’s an article that highlights some of the discussions related to how our field is changing.  I think the challenge of state coordinators is to make our data and our tools applicable to all those interested in our ‘expanding’ field.

Ambulance UAV's

The original article calls them drones, but we know better.  This is an intriguing concept, but we all know there’s lots of work to do to be able to dispatch anyone (or anything) to where someone in distress is calling from their cell phone.

Correct link for Anthrpocene Story Maps

Thanks to Shane White for picking up my error in the previous post.  For those of you on the RSS feed, please note this is the correct link:

Anthropocene Story Maps

The story maps ESRI put together for this topic are pretty neat:


NSGIC Comments on Home Mortgage Disclosure Act

On October 29th, Shelby Johnson, NSGIC President and Arkansas State GIO, forwarded comments on proposed rule changes issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, Docket No. CFPB-2014-0019, RIN 3170-AA10). The Bureau is trying to determine how to track and analyze home mortgages with greater granularity than in the past. NSGIC’s suggestions include:

  1. The Bureau should not use parcel identification numbers because there is no standard numbering system in the United States.
  2. The Bureau should use address points and sub-addresses with the caveat that approximately 30 counties in the U.S. have not converted to physical addresses and they cover approximately 12 million addresses.
  3. The Bureau could partner with states to ‘roll-up’ local government address data and make it publicly available.

NSGIC noted that local governments are the address authorities and at least 21 states are already partnering with their local governments to produce high-quality address point data.  As they are posted, you will be able to view all of the comments on this proposed rule change at:

Google searches in Europe

Is it OK to let people dig up old dirt? At issue is the balance between privacy and freedom of information.  In the US, we say “sure” even when the dirt is no longer relevant. It’s different in Europe. Thanks to a recent lawsuit, Google allows people to opt out when the information is “inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant.”

The October 4 issue of The Economist describes the situation in an article, The Right to be forgotten: Drawing the line. In 1998 Mario Costeja González, a lawyer, was forced to sell his home to pay some debts. Notice was posted in a Spanish newspaper, La Vanguardia. Google linked to it, causing González no end of professional problems. He sued to be forgotten and won.

America (and Google) has a history of openness and freedom of speech. Everything is fair game. Europe has a different history, that includes fascism and communism. Public information has been used to hurt innocent people.  Europe is more willing to suppress information that doesn’t serve a public good.

The balance is not always easy, but Google has risen to the challenge and is allowing people to petition to have links removed. Each appeal is reviewed and most are refused, but many have been granted.  Requests by doctors to remove patient reviews have been denied.  A teenage drunk-driving accident report was removed because it happened years ago, but an old report about professional misconduct was retained.

The process is evolving. Google has established a high level advisory council to help develop the process. Their report is due early next year. At the same time, government privacy regulators are working on shared guidelines for appeals.

The GIS community should watch closely. Our GISCI Code of Ethics commits us to serving society on the one hand and respecting individuals on the other. Society needs information, but individual privacy needs to be respected too. People should have enough autonomy to opt out, but not always. Where is the balance? The Google case will help us understand the balance and make more informed decisions.

There are other reasons to watch closely.  Rules adopted in Europe may prove useful in other parts of the world, including the US.

Integrating Airport and Public Agency GIS Data

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) recently published a report: Integrating Airport Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Data with Public Agency GIS. It is based on a literature review and surveys of 44 organizations, mostly airports themselves. The report was commissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to benefit airports, but results will be equally interesting to readers from public agencies.

Airports need air photos, parcel, land use, zoning, centerline, construction areas, utility, flood zone, and wetland data from public agencies. They can be strong partners in collecting new air photos and contour information. Interestingly, some of the smaller airports rely on local agencies as their GIS resource: software, hardware, and even staff in some cases.

Public agencies could use airport data for their own work. Noise contours, construction areas, internal building addresses, and outside building height limitations are some of the most useful items. Airports also supply useful information on the basic airfield layout, ground transportation data, utilities, and impervious surfaces and other themes with environmental impacts, .

There are clearly benefits from interaction, but organizational and technical challenges limit progress. Organizational challenges include cost, cumbersome agreements, excessive protection of sensitive data, lack of awareness, and limited awareness of high-level administrative officers about the value of collaboration. Technical challenges include lack of metadata and lack of consistently applied standards.

Nine successful case studies show how those obstacles have been overcome. The Minneapolis-St. Paul example benefited from the broader spirit of cooperation facilitated by MetroGIS, which has involved counties, cities, and the airport from the beginning. Each of the other examples focuses on a particular activity or approach that led to their success.

22 Intriguing Maps

For your Friday, here are 22 maps that are pretty interesting.

TED Talk

I just heard this TED Radio Hour piece on how much we want to know where things are.  Predictions on how our GPS use will continue to increase has implications on our privacy.

Final Delivery to the National Broadband Map

The 1st of October marked the deadline for the 10th and final delivery of broadband availability data to NTIA by all of the state grantees. This program produced a nationwide, seamless spatial database of broadband availability (, updated every 6 months over the 5 years of the program. This effort conclusively demonstrated the value and success of a model that engages states as key coordination partners in nationwide data projects. NSGIC had a significant role in getting this program off to a good start.  We are proud of our contribution, the good work done by the states, and the National Broadband Map.

City Annexation Through Time

Yet another example of how GIS can help tell a story.

Comic Relief

Something amusing for a change…

Boundless Comments on the 2014 NSGIC Annual Conference

Read the linked blog post of Juan Marin, Chief Technology Officer of Boundless, to see what he has to say about the 2014 NSGIC Annual Conference.

Senator Tammy Baldwin Introduces Digital Coast Act

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin introduced legislation on September 18th to help Wisconsin communities along the Great Lakes better prepare for storms, cope with varying lake levels, and strengthen economic development planning efforts along the shore.

“Our Great Lakes are a great asset for our quality of life but also for our long-term economic security. Wisconsin’s Great Lakes communities face a variety of challenges to keep their harbors open, their waters clean and their beaches ready for visitors,” said Senator Baldwin. “This bill ensures that our coastal communities have the resources and tools they need to adapt to changing environmental conditions, maintain healthy shores, and make smart planning decisions to support their local economies and way of life.”

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) currently assembles and hosts the Digital Coast Project, a collaborative online database of the most up-to-date coastal information, and makes it available to both the public and private sectors for use in community planning and disaster response. NOAA also trains coastal communities how to decipher and use the high-tech mapping data to make accurate decisions and smart investments in coastal communities.

Baldwin’s Digital Coast Act authorizes the next phase in coastal mapping at NOAA by ensuring that coastal managers and developers will continue to have the data to make smart choices for economic development, shoreline management and coastal restoration. The Act supports further development of the current project, including increasing access to uniform, up-to-date data, to help communities get the coastal data they need to respond to emergencies, plan for long-term coastal resilience, and manage their water resources.

“Our nation’s coasts are not only where the majority of our population lives and works, much of our nation’s natural heritage and wealth in natural resources are also concentrated in these areas,” said Todd Holschbach, The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin. “Working with Digital Coast has helped The Nature Conservancy’s Wisconsin, Great Lakes and coastal conservation staff access and share data and tools with partners to improve resilience, enhancing the environment and economies of communities across the country.”

“Coastal areas are under increasing demand. Without good data, it is difficult for communities and counties to balance the sometimes competing demands placed on our coasts.  Planners in Wisconsin support this legislation so that we can have the data and information to help people and communities make wise, data-driven decisions for these critical coastal areas.  We applaud Sen. Baldwin’s leadership on this issue,” said Lawrence Ward, Jr., AICP,  President of Wisconsin Chapter of the American Planning Association and Executive Director, Southwestern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

The Digital Coast Act is co-sponsored by Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Maria Cantwell (D-WA.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mark Begich (D-AK), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Angus King (I-ME). Bipartisan companion legislation has also been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Additional support includes: Continental Mapping Consultants, Quantum Spatial, Ozaukee County Planning and Parks Department, American Planning Association (APA), Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM), Coastal States Organization (CSO), National Association of Counties (NACo), National Estuarine Research Reserve Association (NERRA), National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Urban Land Institute (ULI), Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS), and National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS).

The Digital Coast Act is part of NSGIC’s Advocacy Agenda.

National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC)

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the launch of the National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC), which will competitively award nearly $1 billion in HUD Disaster Recovery funds to eligible communities. The competition will help communities recover from prior disasters and improve their ability to withstand and recover more quickly from future disasters, hazards, and shocks. To complement these funds, the Rockefeller Foundation will provide technical assistance and training workshops to every eligible state and local government. The press release can be found on HUD’s website at

All states with counties that experienced a Presidentially Declared Major Disaster in 2011, 2012 or 2013 are eligible to submit applications. This includes 48 of 50 states plus Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. In addition, 17 local governments that have received funding under PL 113-2 are also eligible. A full list of eligible grantees can be found in the attachment “NDRC Eligible Applicants.”

For more information or for questions, please contact