First Public Forum of the Police Accountability Task Force at JLM Life Center

Throughout the month of February, the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force is hosting four community forums across the city to provide residents the opportunity to speak or submit written comments on improving the accountability, oversight and training of Chicago’s police officers.

The first of these forums is this Tuesday, February 2, 2016: @ 5:30 pm – 9:00 pm at JLM Life Center2622 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60612. More info, from the Task Force website:

5:30 PM Doors open/Registration
6:00 PM Overview of Task Force and Working Groups
7:00 PM Public testimony
9:00 PM Forum concludes

The Task Force looks forward to hearing directly from members of the public regarding the issues of police oversight and accountability.


People wishing to comment at the forum can sign up in person at the event.
Those who wish to submit written comments may do so at the forum.
In order to accommodate as many speakers as possible, comments will be limited to two minutes.
Signs and other large objects will not be allowed in the meeting room.
Video will be available on this website as soon, etc.
If you are unable to attend the forum, you can submit your comment or question via our online form.

If you need any help submitting comments, you can get help at a nearby Chicago Public Library or other public computer center.

Police Accountability Task Force Screenshot

Two Projects in our Justice Program Covered in U.S. News & World Report

Today two of our Justice projects, Crime & Punishment in Chicago and Youth-Led Tech, were covered in a Washington Whispers item in U.S. News & World Report: Justice: There’s an App for That. Here’s a snip:

In Chicago, however, there are vivid examples of systemic and cultural challenges to the public’s right to know, even when the information is available.


Smart Chicago, a tech-based organization in the Windy City, tracks information from Chicago law enforcement – “the entire flow, from the commission of a crime to the person going to jail,” says Dan X. O’Neil, its executive director. “The impetus was that the city of Chicago publishes an enormous amount of crime data” that can be used to examine trends, The organization is also teaching computer coding and website development to kids in “neighborhoods most affected by violence and crime,” he adds. “That, we think, is one solution to mass incarceration and hopelessness and crime.”

U.S. News and World Report-- Justice: There's an App For That

New Export Option for Spatial Open Data

In December, a new export option for spatial datasets became available on the data portals for CookData Portal GeoJSON Download Option

County, City of Chicago, and State of Illinois. Previously, datasets such as parcels, streets, address points, and boundaries could be downloaded as a KML, KMZ, or Shapefile. Now, GeoJSON has been added to the list of Download options.

GeoJSON data can be easily used with web mapping tools like Leaflet.

For more on the GeoJSON export option, see the Socrata documentation.


Updated Cook County Data: Annual Salaries

Cook County SealNew Cook County salary data is now available that shows salary and position titles as of November 24, 2015. In order to maintain access to previous salary data updates this data has been posted in a new dataset available at .

Previous Salary Datasets:

A related dataset is the Fiscal Year 2016 Executive Recommendation Budget Summary of Positions:

Updated Cook County Data: Historical & Updated GIS Data

Cook County January 1831Over the past several weeks, the Cook County GIS Department has added updated taxing district boundary data to Cook County’s Open Data Portal. Datasets for the 2012 tax year versions of these boundaries were previously added to the portal. As part of this update, district boundaries for both tax years 2013 and 2014 have been added. In order to maintain the historical datasets, each year is uploaded as a new dataset.

The new datasets are:

ccgisdata – Community College Tax Dist 2013 ccgisdata – Community College Tax District 2014
ccgisdata – Elementary School Tax District 2013 ccgisdata – Elementary School Tax District 2014
ccgisdata – Fire Protection Tax Dist 2013 ccgisdata – Fire Protection Tax Dist 2014
ccgisdata – High School Tax Dist 2013 ccgisdata – High School Tax Dist 2014
ccgisdata – Library Tax Dist 2013 ccgisdata – Library Tax Dist 2014
ccgisdata – Lot 2013 ccgisdata – Lot 2014
ccgisdata – Metropolitan Water Reclamation Tax Dist 2013 ccgisdata – Metropolitan Water Reclamation Tax Dist 2014
ccgisdata – Park Tax Dist 2013 ccgisdata – Park Tax Dist 2014
ccgisdata – Political Township 2013 ccgisdata – Political Township 2014
ccgisdata – Right-of-Way 2013 ccgisdata – Right-of-Way 2014
ccgisdata – Sanitary Tax Dist 2013 ccgisdata – Sanitary Tax Dist 2014
ccgisdata – Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Districts 2013 ccgisdata – Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Districts 2014
ccgisdata – Unit School Tax Dist 2013 ccgisdata – Unit School Tax Districts 2014

Toward a Taxonomy for a Digital Access & Skills Ecosystem

Smart Chicago has thought about taxonomies before as they related to data ecosystems. We’ve found this exercise to be foundational to supporting complex, citywide work like the Chicago School of Data. Now, inspired by Connect Chicagowe’ve defined a taxonomy for our city’s digital access & skills ecosystem. 


The taxonomy presented in this post inspired the structure of the Digital Access & Skills Referral Network Survey and the January 2016 Connect Chicago Meetup. Together, the data collection from the survey and the Meetup will form the necessary ingredients for something we believe both residents and individual programs will benefit from: a map of the digital learning pathways available to Chicagoans.

What is a Digital Access & Skills Ecosystem?

A digital access & skills ecosystem is a collection of people, places, and programs that

  1. Introduce the Internet or new technology to residents and/or
  2. Help residents practice and improve the skills to use the Internet or new technology

Below are just a few specific programing examples submitted by YWCA Chicago, the Safer Foundation, and Metropolitan Family Services of Chicago — three very different institutions doing great, complimentary work in our city:

Like in many cities, Chicago’s digital access & skills ecosystem was bolstered by investments from the National Telecommunications & Information Association’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). That funding supported work at local public computing centers and created a loose network of learning sites across the city.

Now, after BTOP, Chicago’s challenge is to take that network, support it, and make it stronger.

Classifying the Layers of Chicago’s Digital Access & Skills Ecosystem

The first step in making the network stronger is understanding what it looks like after BTOP.

Right now, Chicago’s digital access & skills ecosystem has several layers of communities, people, and places:

  • Learners of different ages, backgrounds, technology comfort levels, and motivations.
  • Trainers/Teachers  — some volunteer, some professional, and some with particular skill or language specializations. In Chicago, they implement programs of all types which include, but are not limited to:
    • basic computer classes
    • MOOC learning peer groups
    • one-on-one computer help
    • workforce development programs with digital training components
    • ESL classes with digital training components
    • arts programs with digital training components
    • introductory coding classes
    • STEM programs
  • Coordinators in the form of institutional, program, or site-level managers
  • Supporters who financially back one or several programs, sites, or site networks. These supports include, but are not limited to:
    • Corporations
    • Foundations
  • Sites (offering one to many programs) which include, but are not limited to:
    • community centers
    • afterschool programs
    • faith-based institutions
    • museums
    • library branches
    • workforce development centers
    • health clinics
  • Site Networks (sometimes overlapping) which include, but are not limited to:

In short, this is complex, decentralized ecosystem with many actors and limited resources. Learners seek to master new skills across programs and places, but different programs and places don’t always communicate with one another.

post pic 2

Classifying the Programming in Chicago’s Digital Access & Skills Ecosystem

Digital access & skills programing in Chicago (and any city) can be classified by mission and method:

  • Program Mission related to increasing access & skills
    • Goal
      • Direct, or when a program explicitly seeks to improve digital access & skills
      • Indirect, or when a program indirectly improves digital access & skills to achieve another primary or complimentary outcome (for instance, employment, English language learning, or violence prevention)
    • Reach
      • Demographic target (for instance, age, race, or gender)
      • Geographic target (for instance, neighborhood, ward, or school)
  • Program Method(s) to increase access and skills
    • Device lending or refurbishment
    • Internet access assistance
      • Reduced or subsidized at-home Internet subscriptions
      • Hotspot lending
      • Public Wi-Fi
    • Training support
      • Subject, software or tool being taught (for instance, Microsoft Excel)
      • Delivery of training (for instance, one-on-one or class)

In our work, we have found to that staying broad in our classification is best to ensure we do not miss valuable partners. There are hybrid programs that are not “tech” or “digital” intentionally, but have a computer learning components that make them important parts of this ecosystem. We’ve tried to strengthen our relationship with the literacy community in Chicago for this reason; often ESL, reading, or adult education programs introduce digital learning or technology to accomplish their goals. Sometimes digital skills are the “why” and sometimes they are the “how.”

post pic 1

The Next Step: A Referral Network Mapping Paths of Learning Across the Ecosystem

Understanding the ecosystem is the prerequisite to mapping out the digital/tech learning pathways for Chicagoans. Where is a safe place for someone to start learning? Where can they go next given their goals? These are the questions we seek to answer. 

Dozens of programs and training sites have already filled out the Digital Access & Skills Referral Network Survey. The questions are reminiscent of the framework above for a good reasons. We want to take inventory of the mission & method of the program and where that program sits across the different layers of our digital access & skills ecosystem.

survey scsh

Once this information is collected and shared with our collaborators, we can co-create a referral network. For the first time, we, as an ecosystem will have a formal map in place that tells us how one program relates to, partners with, can partner with, or can amplify the work of others. In reaction to each individual program’s survey, other programs will indicate:

“I would refer my patrons to this program”

– and / or –

“I would recruit patrons who completed this program”

We document this work and this taxonomy system not only in the hopes that it will benefit our partners in Chicago, but that it will benefit other cities who seek to define, coordinate, and evaluate work across their own ecosystems. We encourage all in Chicago’s digital access & skills ecosystem to fill out the survey and come to the Connect Chicago Meetup on January 29th to participate in this important undertaking.