The following message was forwarded to NSGIC by Bruce Joffee, GISP, from the Open Data Consortium. NSGIC is posting this message, because it signed the Amicus Brief that was filed in this matter before the California Supreme Court.
Interpreting the California Public Records Act in light of California’s Constitution, the California Supreme Court affirmed the public’s right of access to government information in the same format that it is used by government agencies. The unanimous decision of all seven Justices explained, “Openness in government is essential to the functioning of a democracy. Implicit in the democratic process is the notion that government should be accountable for its actions. In order to verify accountability, individuals must have access to government files.”
It has been over four years (51 months) since the Sierra Club filed suit against Orange County for access to its GIS-formatted parcel basemap database (“OC Landbase”) under the Public Records Act, which precludes having to pay the County’s price ($475,000) nor having to sign a licensing agreement restricting use or distribution of the County’s data. A year after filing, however, the Superior Court decided in favor of Orange County, agreeing with the County’s position that its OC Landbase was excluded from disclosure as “computer mapping system” software. Sierra Club appealed, but 14 months later, the Court of Appeal found the statutory language ambiguous, and supported the County’s position that GIS-formatted files fall within the meaning of “computer mapping system.”
The Sierra Club appealed to the California Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case 3 months later. After another 22 months, the Supreme Court decided: the lower courts got it wrong. The Court decision says, “We believe the public records exemption for ‘computer software’ (§ 6254.9(a)), a term that ‘includes computer mapping systems’ (§ 6254.9(b)), does not cover GIS-formatted databases like the OC Landbase at issue here.” Orange County must produce the OC Landbase in response to Sierra Club’s request “in any electronic format in which it holds the information (§ 6253.9(a)(1)) at a cost not to exceed the direct cost of duplication (§ 6253.9(a)(2)).”
The Court cited the California Constitution, (Article I, Section 3, Subdivision (b)(1)): “The people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business,” and Subdivision (b)(2): “A statute, court rule, or other authority shall be broadly construed if it furthers the people’s right of access, and narrowly construed if it limits the right of access.” It also made several references to various Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) statements, particularly the brief from “212 GIS Professionals and 23 GIS Organizations” which explained the difference between software and data, made a distinction between “computer mapping system” and GIS software, illustrated the need for the GIS-formatted database over PDF-format pictures of the data, and pointedly noted that 49 out of California’s 58 counties are able to maintain their GIS databases without having to sell public record data.
Your interest and encouragement helped us carry on through initial disappointments to prevail.
Thank you for your support.
This is not the first time, nor will it be the last time, in which the GIS community is called upon to lend its expertise and participation to defend and extend our democratic rights and professional integrity. Liberty requires vigilance. Working together, our efforts can make a difference.
You can download the text of the decision at http://appellatecases.courtinfo.ca.gov/search/case/mainCaseScreen.cfm?dist=0&doc_id=1985061&doc_no=S194708.
Registration is now open for the 2013 Annual Conference in Kansas City, Missouri! Please visit the website at www.nsgic.org/2013-annual-conference for more information about the conference and to review the current draft agenda. The official registration brochure will be in the mail shortly. In the meantime, you can either download a printable registration form or visit NSGIC Online to register. You will need to log in prior to registering online. Remember to register prior to September 27th to receive the early registration rate!
We are also accepting applications for conference grants. Applications may be submitted online thru July 19th.
The Westin Kansas City at Crown Center is offering a special rate of $149, per room, per night, for the NSGIC 2013 Annual Conference for Saturday, October 26 thru Thursday, October 31st. In addition, the hotel will be offering the prevailing Government per diem rate to all attendees providing valid Government Identification. To make your reservation, call the hotel at 1-816-474-4400 or 1-888-627-8538, please reference NSGIC (National States Geographic Information Council) when making your reservation (for both the group rate AND government per diem). Be sure to make your reservation before October 12, 2013 in order to receive the NSGIC discounted rate. Complimentary Internet service will be available to attendees in guestrooms and within the NSGIC meeting space.
Hope to see you in Kansas City!
Editor’s Note: The following ‘report’ was made at Rick Gelbmann’s retirement party. Rick was manager of the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council’s GIS Team where he made huge contributions to regional data sharing activities, including the creation of the award-winning MetroGIS initiative in 1995. He had to do something like this; two-thirds of the data he needs to do his job comes from others in the region. Rick’s retirement party was on April 5, 2013, close enough to label this spoof the thoughts of an April Fool. The report was conceived and delivered by Randy Knippel, chair of the MetroGIS County Data Producer Workgroup and Nobody’s Fool. (My apologies for badly formatting Randy’s report, but the blogosphere has its limitations)
MetroGIS Liaison Report
We have worked with Rick for many years through MetroGIS, but he has always held reservations about how things have changed over the years. With his retirement, he intends to make himself available through consulting services. We have had preliminary planning meetings with him and, with Rick’s guidance; we expect to start making some much needed changes.
Effective immediately, we will begin a new phase in GIS data development and deployment by eliminating all collaboration and data sharing, instead, working individually to create much stronger GIS programs.
- To get things back on track we will encourage adoption of following basic principles:
- All agencies will independently examine data fees and begin charging more to pay for their GIS operations.
- Eliminate sharing of data so we don’t have to worry about people misusing it or blaming us for mistakes.
- This will also prevent terrorists from using it against us and avoid privacy issues.
- All work groups will dissolve and all communication and collaboration will cease.
- From the counties’ perspective, pricing for parcels is expected to rise to former levels and beyond, likely exceeding $100 per parcel. However, other government agencies and educational institutions will not be allowed to buy it and will begin building their own parcel databases.
- Current data licensing will be amended to include universal background checks and restrictions on the use of high-capacity data storage devices.
- This will prevent criminals from getting the data and using it for nefarious purposes.
- Calm fears of law-abiding citizens who believe less than 10 records at a time is enough.
- We expect to realize a host of benefits including:
- Revenue from GIS data is expected to increase into the ka-jillions (That’s a big number. For those of you having trouble visualizing it, that’s a 1 with a ka-jillion zeros after it.)
- Property taxes will decrease substantially as entire government operating budgets are funded by GIS data revenue.
- GIS programs will grow. (It will be a great time to be working in the field of GIS. We will double and triple existing staffing levels to build killer apps as unique as possible so we all have our own brand and individual web presence. As demand for GIS staff increases, GIS salaries will increase dramatically, creating hiring wars as we compete with each other for qualified staff.)
- The economy in general will be stimulated (Without collaboration and data sharing we will spend much more on data collection and maintenance creating a boon for consultants and contractors.)
- We look forward to Rick’s vision and leadership in this brave new approach to doing GIS! We were going against established wisdom in 1995, but times have changed. It’s time to reverse direction and go against the flow again.
One of NSGIC’s goals is to promote geospatial information integration to help inform public and private decision-makers. A similar goal is met by a new web-based tool called MyDistrictData, created by Citi Community Development and PolicyMap. MyDistrictData offers users the ability to create reports on economic, employment, financial, educational, and housing conditions in their district. The hope is that access to these data will equip decision makers to make more informed recommendations as they consider their constituents. While much of the data is collected and presented at the state level, MyDistrictData produces reports at the congressional district level to show clear variation between districts. Currently, only reports on workforce and jobs are available. By June, other reports (Money & Savings, Education, and Housing) will be available. All data is free, public, and encouraged to be disseminated.
Stu Davis is currently serving as the CIO for the State of Ohio, but NSGIC members know him better as a Past-President of NSGIC and the former GIS Coordinator for the State of Ohio. He was recently named by Government Technology Magazine as one of the top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers in Public-Sector Innovation. Follow this link to see the complete list and read what they have to say about Stu – http://www.govtech.com/top-25/
The All Points Blog at Directions Magazine published an article on March 7th indicating that Hawaii has used the WSCA Cloud Services Contract. You can read more at: http://apb.directionsmag.com/entry/hawaii-uses-wcsa-for-cloud-contract-with-dewberry/314956
As usual, the first full day of the NSGIC mid-year meeting was jam packed with useful information. The day began with opening remarks from the President of NSGIC, Ivan Weichert. He provided a reminder to us that change is inevitable and summarized it succinctly – The way it was is not the way it is and the way it is now is not the way it will be. Wise words to remember. We then had the pleasure of hearing from keynote speaker Major General William Reddel, the Adjutant General of the New Hampshire National Guard. He emphasized the importance of collaboration and its ultimate role in saving lives. In our reality where speed is life, it is ever so important to have tools that can turn our data into information that can be used to create knowledge and understanding in place before disasters occur. He cited a Winston Churchill quote “Gentlemen, we are out of money, we need to think”. A quote that has been repeated several times since. This is not the time to make excuses; this is the time to get creative. Geospatial thinking is a science and an art and the only thing stopping us from using GIS now is our imaginations. Now is a time for us to work together to share best practices, find standards and architecture that can support all of us. When the lowest level source of data is the towns in our states then we need to start with the towns that have ‘good’ geospatial programs to be champions to those who don’t. Rather than federal entities pulling information together in silos, it is more efficient and will reduce redundancy to carry the data up from the lowest levels. He is looking to NSGIC and the states to keep pushing our message. He will keep pushing with the organizations he works with including NASCIO, the White House, Department of Homeland Security and the National Geospatial intelligence Agency. We need to have many voices with one message. The importance of this was emphasized with a reminder of what the American people will judge us by: 1) Did we save their lives, 2) Did we reduce human suffering and 3) Did we protect their property.
Other presentations throughout the day carried the same theme of collaboration and finding creative solutions in the economic challenges we are facing. Jim Scott from Texas spoke of Transcendental Geography. He highlighted the importance of calibrating models with actual data to get a more realistic picture. Their field research of flood high water marks has proven that you can have accurate maps that are not realistic.
Bert Granberg from Utah and Jacob Mundt from Wyoming, chairs of the Geospatial Web Service Working group have collected survey responses regarding state’s use of Geospatial web services. The results will be available in a Google document for shared viewing. They are going to work with NSGIC on next steps and will incorporate results into the GMA and develop a best practices document. Stay tuned for more!
Ray Faught from New York presented results from an eye-opening imagery ROI study, including data gathered from 15 counties, combined with data extrapolated for approximately 35 additional counties and the private sector. They determined there was a 711% ROI on their imagery investment. And that doesn’t even include the non-financial benefits such as lives saved by having good data… WOW!
David Boyd’s update on Virtual USA was also a reminder of being creative in tough financial times. Governance is typically the hardest part as it implies who is in charge and who pays. Noting that you can’t rely on government to continue funding for any prolonged period of time, they are going to continue funding Virtual USA until it can be self-sustaining.
Sean McSpaden from Oregon, the chair of NISC, provided us with an update of their progress. Since July 2012 they have grown from 5 to 24 members. The most recent additions are NSGIC and their first private sector member esri. In a relatively short period of time they have collected a diverse array of resources, tools, API’s and even code that are available to members. In the future they are also looking at technologies other than Flex to expand their toolkit.
Mike Byrne of the FCC shared information about one of their current projects to collect ILEC study area boundaries. They are building a data collection website for providers to submit data and for collaboration on certification.
Charley Hickman from the USGS gave an update on the 3D elevation program which seems analogous to Lidar for the Nation (with the exception of Alaska that is collecting mostly IFSAR). USGS has developed an interagency elevation inventory and if you are from an area impacted by Sandy, they are seeking partners for additional data to be collected.
Past President of NSGIC Tim DeTroye of South Carolina shared some of their lessons learned with data licensing issues. In their state tables of data aren’t typically an issue, but when you add a spatial component, counties want to copyright their data. The question is “To license or not to license”. To be copyrightable, data has to be original and some sort of creative work.
This is a point that was further emphasized by Paul Uhlir’s discussion of legal interoperability of data. One of his points was that public domain is the yin to proprietary’s yang. He moved to an explanation of the difference between license and contract which is an important distinction.
Learon Dalby stayed true to form with his talk about the meaning of ‘free’. The reusable analogy he used – ask yourselves is this “puppy dog” free, or “beverage” free? Meaning, when you adopt a puppy for free you are on the hook for food and shelter, but if someone were to give you a beverage than that’s free to you. His emphasis was to look at the total cost of ownership – something may be free initially, but what about the servers to host it and resources to maintain it?
Christian Carlson from esri shared their goals to take the technology from highly customized systems that can’t be modified and sustained to configurable systems that require little coding. The tools they have developed for local governments will be extended to state governments.
Anthony Fassero from Nokia discussed the progression of street view data collection. The first project of its kind was actually a 1977-79 MIT Aspen movie map developed using a camera strapped to the roof of a wood panel wagon!
The final session of the day was on broadband data. Bill Johnson from New York cited some creative uses of the broadband data to filter applications for funding Connect NY projects and their collaboration with their economic development office. Joy Paulus from Washington noted how their maps are a lot more precise than they used to be. They are also using the broadband data to support investments and later mentioned that 80% of their communities have seen a change for the better. And last, but not least was Bert Granberg from Utah. He first emphasized that the broadband data is freely available in the public domain. You don’t have to be a broadband steward to do cool things with it. He highlighted creative ways they are funding gaps in coverage – their roadkill application, er, I mean, their Wildlife Vehicle Collection Response application serves as a double agent. They are able to tell where field users aren’t able to connect to the network and can use that data to improve their broadband data.
A full day to say the least!! These are only highlights; you can view full presentations in the 2013 conference archives.
Too rarely in our lives do we get opportunities where our professional and personal lives intersect. As bizarre as it sounds to some, I am privileged to say I have had that opportunity with my experiences with NSGIC. I have never known another group of people so closely bound by a shared common goal who can enjoy the silly pleasures of an evening of folk songs and sing-alongs after a hard day of collaborating on ideas to bring people together and to get outsiders to understand the importance of what we do. On paper, is that an ROI on attendance? Probably not. But in a world where a difference can be made by the right person having the right contact at the right time, does that or should that really matter? To me, it doesn’t. I, for one, know I can count on any of the members of NSGIC to come through on a trivial question or even response to a major disaster. I don’t know of a similar organization that avails itself to furthering education, pushing legislation, increasing communication and fostering collaboration like NSGIC does. And it is not to the benefit of its members, as is proven by the fact that many members come to the meetings at their own expense. It is to the benefit of the citizens that we all serve. Whom we, as civil servants, have pledged our careers and ourselves to help. I, for one, know who I can call upon for help with geospatial challenges, do you? I learned by attending NSGIC meetings. Not by reading contact lists or directories, but by meeting the people in person. That’s an ROI song that I think I can sing.
State GIOs are preparing for significant changes required to support the next generation of emergency response technology; data and business planning and preparation are underway, with the state GIS office a central stakeholder in ensuring successful coordination.
Responding to states’ need for information and guidance, NSGIC’s Addressing Work Group recently presented “Statewide Addressing Solutions,” a web conference featuring three states’ (MA, NY, and UT) approaches to coordinating statewide, cross-departmental preparations for the next generation of public safety services. Issues surrounding addressing standards, coordination across federal-state-county stakeholders, eliminating duplication of effort, and leveraging updated data layers for other statewide needs were addressed in this session. [access recorded session here]
NSGIC’s 2013 Midyear Meeting (Feb. 24-27, Annapolis, MD, info here) will continue to provide strategic insights for state GIOs, as well as the opportunity to discuss and debate approaches to NG911 support preparations and available funding resources:
Homeland Security Workshop: “Strategic Initiatives to Support Geospatial Preparedness”
Emergency Management professionals are acutely aware that their success during an event depends heavily upon having the right networks, resources and capabilities in place before an event occurs. This is essential because when that “big event” happens, whatever it is, those resources need to be rapidly mobilized and deployed appropriately. While emergency managers are preparing for the next big event, their partners are busy addressing everyday (non-disaster focused) challenges facing their respective organizations. This workshop is designed to provide state coordinators with a strategic view of the opportunities to address both – cross walking between the everyday business requirements of an organization and the disaster requirements of emergency managers. At the end of this workshop, we hope state coordinators will have additional tools to strategically address the needs of the emergency management community, while at the same time strengthening the daily usage of geospatial information and technology to support the business requirements of their states.
SBI/Broadband and Addressing Session: “State Approaches to Addresses”
States are working to create statewide address registers – often with very different approaches. Virginia and Rhode Island already have systems that provide up-to-date address data that benefits their states. Maryland and Oregon are moving forward. This session will present those four models, then discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each.
FirstNet Panel Discussion
FirstNet, the federal plan to deploy a nationwide wireless public safety broadband network, will be discussed. There are many unknowns about this plan, including funding and federal-state roles and responsibilities. This panel will provide the most up-to-date information useful to state GIS coordinators.
NENA Guidance for States: Preparing for NG911 Data Needs
As state GIS coordinators, a significant amount of effort is aimed at creating standardized, statewide databases of key local government databases. The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) provides standards and guidance useful in assisting states in creating databases such as structure point addresses, 911 service boundaries, parcels, road centerlines, etc. The role of these databases in Next Generation 9-1-1 systems will be discussed as well as
where in the call taking process the data is used, current databases that may be replaced (e.g. Master Street Address Guide – MSAG) and how state GIS coordinators can best prepare our respective states for meeting these needs.
Facilitated Discussion on SBI/Broadband, Address, Transportation and FirstNet
This session will tie together the relationships between the many efforts that have one very important thing in common: an address.
NSGIC’s 2013 Midyear Meeting is open to all stakeholders in the geospatial community. On average, nearly 40 US states and territories are represented at the Midyear Meeting, popular for its depth of content, open discussion and networking, and take-home value for attendees. Visit www.nsgic.org for more information.
A special workshop will be presented by NSGIC Platinum Sponsor, North West Group, on Sunday, February 24th, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm.*
Topic: A Real World Analysis of a Geospatial Public Private Partnership
Presented By: Tim Crago, Vice President, North West Group; and Tom Grabowski, President & CEO, The Silvacom Group
Overview: Since 1997, the Government of Alberta Canada has participated in a PPP for the storage, management, update and distribution of a number of government data sets. The history, corporate set up and funding models are examined.
Please join us for this highly interactive session that we hope will ignite great discussion and provide insightful input relating to both sides of the equation.
* This workshop will be open to Government, Academic, & Non-Profit Attendees Only. Please consider this workshop while arranging your travel plans; it is recommended that you plan to arrive on Saturday if you wish to attend.