Blogging for America

Noel Hidalgo: Why I’m Coding for America

We are living on the horizon of a bright tomorrow. Transparency, efficiency, and participation are echoing through the halls of government and in the streets of New York. In 2009, when a small group of organizers and technologists walked through the doors of New York State House, we etched these words into the walls. Four years later, transparency, efficiency, and participation have been etched across the world as the mantra of public / private collaboration.

In my childhood, service and adventure filled my dreams. Both sides of my grandparents dedicated their lives to their families and community. My maternal grandparents were educators. My paternal grandfather was a warrior and my paternal grandmother was a caretaker. I grew up the son of two US Air Force officers. They intermingled their stories with optimism and adventure. Their inspiration and support gave me the fertile grounds to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout and dedicate my High School career to community service.

After several years attempting to make a buck in the roaring 1990s, I found myself under 25, and unemployed for the second time. In 2003, I saw our nation slip into two wars and further into a an unsustainable economy. It was then that I said enough was enough, and I volunteered during the 2004 presidential campaign. On August 1, 2004, I moved to New York City and vowed to make it a better city. In my first year there, I discovered a budding vine of code named Drupal. This vine, was fresh, global, idealistic, and fertilized with civic roots. It wrapped every one of my digital ideals into one easily deployed software package.

Through the communities that supported drupal, I discovered a peer network rooted in openness, freedom, civics, and do it ourselves. This led me to start New York’s Drupal User Group, organize a series of unconferences, pull together New York’s first coworking location, circumnavigate the world while exploring the other end of the internet, drive a New York Taxi Cab, help organize Twitter VoteReport (a precursor to Foursquare with election protection tools), organize New York’s open government community, reinvent public information portals at NYSenate.gov, and help pass the most progressive open data legislation any U.S. city has ever seen, aka New York Local Law 11 of 2012.

Now, I join Code for America as the New York Program Manager. Headquartered at Blue Ridge Foundations’ Cobble Hill, Brooklyn office, I get to be with some of New York’s brightest civic innovators — DataKind, TurboVote, WomensLaw.org, ControlShift, and iMentor.

What does this mean for New York?

In 2013, we will root our civic technology community in sustainable soil. For in 2014, a new municipal administration will take over the Mayor’s Office, the Council’s Speaker’s chair, the Public Advocate’s gavel, and the Comptroller’s calculator. For our city to bridge into the next administration, we must have strong roots.

Luckily, New York’s civic technology and open government community does not grow alone. Thanks to a lattice of experienced brothers and sisters, New York State and City is blessed with a suite of forward thinking transparency and open government laws, statutes, policies, and programs.

Our next 12 months are an unprecedented opportunity to innovate. Over the next 12 months, we must actively engage New York’s administration, and maximize our opportunity with one of the most creative municipal governments this nation has ever seen.

Together, we will explore the City’s datasets and generate new insights.
Together, we will build efficient ways for us to report our issues to the City.
Together, we will engage in mutual aid and never forget that through unity we are the strongest.

If you are ready to stand with the hundreds of fellow New Yorkers who have already committed to coding for New York, I ask you to make a resolution and join us…

  1. Join Open NY Forum, this forum will be used for CfA Brigade related announcements.
  2. Schedule a meeting with me and discuss your civic technology issues, problems, or opportunities via oHours.
  3. Or contact me at noel[@]codeforamerica.org or @noneck on twitter.

 

Questions? Comments? Hit us up @codeforamerica

Code for America Labs, Inc is a non-partisan, non-political 501(c)(3) organization. Content is licensed through Creative Commons.