Adopt-A-Sidewalk is Re-Launched Along With Mayor Emanuel’s Chicago Shovels Program (Just in Time!)

Mayor Emanuel Announces Chicago Shovels for 2012

The Smart Chicago Collaborative is proud be a part of Chicago Shovels, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s initiative to help connect the public with City winter resources and empower neighbors to come together to help Chicago navigate winter. We worked with the City of Chicago and the Chicago Code for America Brigade to re-launch of Adopt-A-Sidewalk.

As part of the Race for Reuse Campaign at Code for America, local civic hackers helped to move the City of Chicago’s Adopt-A-Sidewalk app onto servers hosted by the Smart Chicago Collaborative, document the code, and publish it as a fresh instance to Github. This means that developers can continue to improve the site by adding new features and continuing to integrate additional data sets as the city expands on its data offerings.

The Race for Reuse is a nationwide effort to help redeploy civic apps all across the country with 28 cities helping to deploy 31 civic apps. Adopt-A-Sidewalk was originally built as the Boston-focused Adopt-a-Hydrant app that lets citizens adopt hydrants that they agree to take care of in the event of snow.

Chicago has modified this code and added map files of every sidewalk in the city. Residents can claim sidewalks during snow events (like tonight!)– pledging to shovel their own walks or take care of a neighbor’s 25 feet of love. If you can’t shovel your walk and need help, The app will also let people indicate that they need help with their sidewalk. Volunteers can then go into the app and adopt that particular sidewalk.

This Vista Never Fails Me: Lincoln Park Zoo Nature Boardwalk in First Snowfall, December 2010

Lots of people worked on this app. Chief among them is Ryan Briones. He is an IT Director for Software Architecture and Design at the City’s Department of Innovation and Technology, but he worked to configure the server and document the code on his evenings, civic hacker-style. He is longtime member of OpenGovChicago and just flat-out cares about this stuff.

Christopher Whittaker, the Code for America Brigade Captain here in Chicago, shepherded the entire process and did a goodly amount of tweaking as well. He is a tireless organizer and he’s been a a continued link to the key national Code for America organization, from which all of this sprung.

When Adopt A Sidewalk launched last February, it was set up mainly by a group of dedicated team centered around the Obama for America tech team. This included Scott VanDenPlas,  Aaron Salmon, Arun Sivashankaran, Ben Hagen, Chris Gansen, Jason Kunesh, Jesse Kriss, Nick Leeper, Ryan Kolak, Paul Smith, and Scott Robbin.

This time around, Michael Barrientos and Emily Rosengren worked to get us to launch. Derek Eder gave some advice, Rebecca Ackerman enabled zoom, and Joe Olson of Tracklytics helped with DNS configuration.

Chicago is no stranger to community technology for the wintry mix. In 2011, a great group of people emanating from the Chicago Tribune news apps team that created and worked the ChicagoSnow Crowdmap (Ask for help, lend a hand: Blizzard 2011). We spent a couple nights managing and mapping 984 snow help reports for the blizzard of February 1, 2011. Here’s a super-detailed writeup. It was a great test case in community building around a weather event.

People interested in civic hacking are encouraged to meet to talk policy, data, and technology at the OpenGovChicago meetup group. You can also head over to the Open Gov Hack Nights at 1871 located inside the Merchandise Mart. These growing gatherings, hosted and supported in part by Smart Chicago, are a great way to get a mitt and get in the game on civic hacking.

Here’s a video explaining the program:

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