Collaboration with the City

Last year’s National Day of Civic Hacking was a huge event: we collaborated on a project with FEMA, we held a hack day at the Tulsa Library for TulsaWiki, and we worked on LocalTour.  We all collectively agreed that there was no way we were going to top the level of activity and the number of projects.  We also realized that we’ve got a lot of stuff in the works, but we were mostly working in a vacuum: locally, there are many key departments that aren’t aware of the work we’re doing, and even those who do know about us, don’t really “get it.”  In a recent public meeting, City Councilor Blake Ewing admitted, “I understand you’re doing some really great things, and I am interested and aware of Code for America, but it’s all over my head…” So after a meeting discussing what we wanted to do for NDCH, we decided that instead of scaling up, we needed to scale down.

During the last week of May, we met with Susan Miller, Manager Land Development Services at the Indian Nations Council of Governments.  INCOG is what’s known as a regional planning organization.  Instead of each city in the metropolitan area having its own large planning and data staff for land use, transportation, economic development, environmental quality, public safety, etc.  INCOG provides planning and data services for all its member governments.

We learned quite a bit about the relationship between the City of Tulsa, and INCOG.  We also learned about the data that INCOG maintains: the collection is vast.  From every map you can possibly think of, to data on infrastructure, streets & sidewalks (they have a comprehensive map of every sidewalk in Tulsa!), to planning, zoning, and permitting maps for every construction project happening in the city.  If someone is doing construction, anywhere in Tulsa, INCOG is the one who provided the map, and zoning information about it.

Through this meeting, and a follow-up with two INCOG staffmembers who have been assigned to Code for Tulsa, we got a better understanding of the inner-workings of the city.  Building these relationships and getting a good understanding of what all goes on inside of City Hall is just as important as knowing how to write the code that we write.  We’re excited about continuing to work with INCOG and continuing to form these kinds of relationships with other city departments.

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