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Code for Oakland: June 4th

Apps for my city?  My city! I’m so used to thinking of Boston, Seattle and Philadelphia as “our” cities this year. I spend most of my time hearing about them from our fellows and thinking about what’s next for them, and when I’m not doing that I’m thinking about the cities who’ve applied for our 2012 fellowship and the challenges they’re facing. (I’m writing this from Detroit, where I had the pleasure of meeting with a great group of city officials and funders today, to see if we can make Detroit a CfA city next year.)

But my city is Oakland, California. I’ve lived in Oakland for 16 years and it’s where I’d like to spend the rest of my life.  Crime, yes; less than perfect public transit, yes -– but also wonderful diversity, natural beauty, great culture, friendly people and, of course, the Grand Lake Farmers Market on Saturdays.  Visit.  You’ll agree.

So I’m really excited that Oakland is finally having its own hack day on June 4th: Code for Oakland.  The amazing Susan Mernit and the other wonderful folks at Oakland Local, including Paul Richardson, have taken it upon themselves to organize this. (Code for America is just helping out, despite the similarities in the names.)  The event was inspired by the FCC’s Apps for Communities contest, which was announced by FCC Chair Julius Genachowski in Oakland last month.  Susan and Paul and others figured if the feds took enough interest in Oakland to make the announcement here, we should at least rally the Bay Area developer community to build some applications for our city.  There’s so much that can be done to make Oakland’s (and Alameda County’s, and the State of California’s) data useful to citizens.  Let’s prove that.

Oakland doesn’t have an official data catalog, or an open data initiative, or even a CIO or CTO. (There is instead a director of information technology, whose job sounds very difficult, and who reports to the City Administrator.  By contrast, most of the CIOs and CTOs we work with at Code for America have cabinet-level positions and work closely with their mayors.) But Oakland does have a great community, and some support from City Hall, so a handful of folks are pulling together what datasets they do have in advance of the event. Nicole Neditch of Oakland’s Community & Economic Development Agency is compiling data from across the city and folks like Steven Spiker of the Urban Strategies Council and Michal Migurski of Stamen Design and of course of Oakland Crimespotting fame are adding to it what they have from their own work. (Steve and Mike are both Code for America mentors as well, so this makes at least two things for which we’re very grateful to them.) Call it the “event-driven open data strategy,” by which we mean hack day event.

So, calls to action! One, if you’re in the Bay Area, sign up to attend Code for Oakland on June 4th! Two, spread the word to others. Three, got data that could be useful at the event? Let us know in the comments!

See you there.