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2012_Santa Cruz End of Year Report
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2012_Santa Cruz End of Year Report

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  • 1. Fellowship – 2012Final ReportRuthie BenDor – Jim Craner – Tamara Shopsin
  • 2. IntroductionSanta Cruz, California was the smallest city to participate in the Code for America program --but it’s a small city with a big appetite for the future. It’s a small city with a large base oftalented and committed civil servants and residents. And most importantly: it’s a small citywith a big heart.The 2012 Code for AmericaFellows that partnered with theCity of Santa Cruz -- RuthieBenDor, Jim Craner, and TamaraShopsin -- recognized these traitsfrom their first conference callwithheir City partners. Over thenext ten months, the Fellows andCity staff worked together on anumber of projects already demonstrating great benefits for the residents, businesscommunity, and civil servants of Santa Cruz. With a keen focus on sustainability, the Fellowsare confident that the work they performed will remain beyond their Fellowship, and hopefullyspread to other cities seeking to solve the same problems by using new technologies.The ResidencyIn late January, the Santa Cruz Fellows finished their pre-Residency training and embarkedon the 70-mile journey to Santa Cruz. At the time, the team’s primary goal was to build asmall business permitting website to ease the registration and compliance burden for localsmall businesses. This goal is a perfect example of Code for America’s vision -- leveragingtechnology to make common citizen/government interactions more efficient.The Fellows began the Residency in style by attending the 2012 NEXTies -- a gala civicawards event held at the Museum of Art and History by local cultural group Santa Cruz NEXT.Our first night was a night of firsts:• Jim and Ruthie met Mayor Don Lane and City Contact Peter Koht for the first time• we had our first Penny Ice Creamery ice cream• and we had the first of many wonderful conversations with the people of Santa Cruz.The Residency had two main goals: getting to know the people and processes in City Halland getting to know the small business community that would be the primary users of ourapplication.Peter Koht spent several days leading us through City Hall and the various departments thatmake up the municipal government, then made us at home at our temporary office in the ITDivision. The IT staff, led by City CTO Chris Stathis, was incredibly welcoming and we beganconversations that would lay the groundwork for hosting and integration of our futureapplications. Forging connections with city technology staff to support CfA’s work on a long-term basis is a critical component of a successful Fellowship engagement.Unlike larger cities in the Fellowship, Santa Cruz City Hall is incredibly intimate: it was not
  • 3. uncommon to run into the Mayor or a few City Council members a few times a week. At theend of our Residency month, we all truly felt like we were part of a city-wide team and that wehad sincere support from elected officials and department staff.As part of our efforts to help transform the small business startup process, we conducted fourformal focus group sessions with members of the Santa Cruz small business community.During these sessions, we listened to architects, restaurateurs, retail shop owners, and otherentrepreneurs describe what they experienced when launching their small businesses inSanta Cruz. These experiences in the community, combined with our research into the“behind-the-scenes” operations in City Hall, yielded a solid foundation for our applicationplanning efforts.
  • 4. OpenCounter - Permitting Portal for Small BusinessesThe primary mission of the Santa Cruz Fellowship team was to deploy a tool for localentrepreneurs to ease the regulatory and compliance burdens associated with launching anew business. Starting a new venture can involve a bureaucratic maze of red tape, visits toCity Hall to complete paperwork, and stymied attempts to figure out local laws andregulations. By building a citizen-centric tool focused on the entrepreneurs experience, wehoped to measurably reduce the time and costs involved with local permitting and regulatorycompliance.The Santa Cruz Fellows met with dozens of business owners, civic and commerceorganizations, and City employees of multiple departments in an attempt to fully understandthe intricacies involved with starting a business. We also met with local governmentemployees in neighboring municipalities to ensure that any solution we built could be reusedby other jurisdictions with minimal changes and customizations.The resulting solution - OpenCounter - provides an intuitive, user-friendly interface to multipleCity processes, including zoning, permitting, and licensing. The tool offers a wizard to guideentrepreneurs through the business startup process, offering links to non-City resources suchas state and county permitting, and collecting information to be submitted directly to City staffand systems. As the application is rolled out, City staff will be eager to measure the improveduser experience for small business owners.http://opencounter.cityofsantacruz.com
  • 5. OpenData - Implementing Santa Cruz’s Open DataInitiativeLike many cities, the City of Santa Cruz creates and records a large amount of data:everything from maps of each City-managed park to daily rainfall recorded at the LochLomond Reservoir. Over the past few years, many government agencies have made an effortto publish this type of data to the public, making it "open" and freely available. This "opendata" can be used by students, researchers, businesses, website developers, journalists, andany other interested community members.In the summer of 2011, the Santa Cruz City Council passed a resolution to create an opendata portal and an associated initiative to open data sets held by City departments. Since thegoals of this project are closely aligned with Code for America’s strategic goals, this became ajoint project between the City and CfA. Fellow Jim Craner took the lead as project manager,working closely with City staff to develop both an open data platform and internal policies forstaff publication of data.The data server was launched in September 2012 with over fifty data sets culled from Citydatastores as well as other sources, such as state and federal data catalogs. The City hasalready approved funding for community engagement activities related to the open datainitiative for 2013 – a promising sign for this promising project.http://data.cityofsantacruz.com
  • 6. Ancillary ProjectsBike Lockers - Quick WinSanta Cruz’s new bike lockers are a great feature for thecity’s many cyclicsts -- but they look like utility boxes.Tamara worked with the Transportation Department to getapproval for a large bike logo on the exterior of each locker,which she then painted. The project was a quick and easywin for urban usability.Read more at http://codeforamerica.org/2012/06/08/utility-boxes/Redesign of City Hall Departmental MapsTamara worked with the City’s Arts Director as well as numerous departments to update andoptimize the City Hall departmental maps used by visitors. In addition, she created an onlineversion of the map to be integrated into the city website.Read more at http://codeforamerica.org/2012/08/28/quick-win/Bicycle Registration ToolSanta Cruzs municipal code states that bicycles ridden in the city need to be licensed, butpublic awareness is so low that almost nobody -- not even bike shop owners -- has any ideaof this requirement. In 2011, only 180 bicycles were registered in the city of Santa Cruz, butover 800 stolen bicycles were recovered. Right now, licensing and registering a bicyclerequires that one visit the Finance Department in City Hall, pay a $3 fee (that doesnt coverthe citys expense), and fill out a paper form that is manually input twice: once into theFinance Departments record-keeping software, and once into the Police Departmentsrecord-keeping software. By eliminating the fee, putting the form online, and integrating itdirectly with the Police Departments record-keeping software, the city will actually savemoney on each registration by eliminating the personnel time needed to process thepaperwork. By creating a mobile-ready online form, bike shops are able to register bikes forcustomers who might not know where to find their new rides serial #. This should increasecompliance and also make it more likely for stolen bicycles to be reunited with their owners.IT Skill Building SeriesAs one of the smallest cities in the CfA Fellowship program, Santa Cruzs municipal ITdepartment has limited internal resources to adopt some of the new technologies that wereutilizing this year. I planned and implemented an ITD Capacity Building program to surveycurrent skills, anticipated required skills for the next 24 months, and deliver training andlearning opportunities to IT staff around those skills.IT personnel have begun to utilize their new skills in their own system maintenance andconfiguration duties day-to-day. Personnel should be more equipped to sustain CfA-inspired
  • 7. and -developed technologies, applications, and services following the end of the 2012FellowshipTextizen for Santa CruzUsing the Textizen software built by CfA Team Philadelphia this year, we deployed a textmessage-based polling system in Santa Cruz to help city employees get citizen feedback ona variety of issues. Our first poll involved use of the city-operated tourist trolley service indowntown Santa Cruz.By providing opportunities for citizens to submit feedback via text messaging, Santa Cruz ismaking it easier for citizens voices to be heard by city government. In addition, mobile-basedpolls have the potential to target larger numbers of respondents than traditional web-based orlandline-based polls.Community EngagementCode Across America: Santa Cruz HackathonAs part of CfA’s national day of hacking in February, the Santa Cruz Fellows organized an all-day hackathon hosted by local co-working facility NextSpace. Over 30 local hackers attendedthis initial event, with a focus on designing and building applications to improve the citizenexperience. Many connections were forged and snacks consumed.TechRaising: Santa CruzThe CfA Fellows participated in this semi-annual event, a hybrid hackathon / designathon /entrepreneur funding pitch / skill share. Dozens of local Santa Cruz techies andentrepreneurs showed up to coordinate ideas, skills, and funding.Meeting with Staff from Center for Data and DemocracyThe CfA Fellows and our City contact had a meeting with the staff from the local Center forData and Democracy where we gave them information about CfA and specifically the workwe were performing in Santa Cruz.Cruzio Bounce HourCruzio is a local Santa Cruz ISP as well as a co-working facility for many entrepreneurs in theSanta Cruz area. One of the company’s weekly all-hands idea-sharing meetings was devotedto CfA’s mission in Santa Cruz, where the Fellows shared their observations and plans.Santa Cruz Rotary Club LuncheonJim was invited to speak for about half an hour to the Santa Cruz Rotary Club, an audience ofwell over a hundred people. He presented information about CfA’s 2011 activities as well asthe hopes for the 2012 Fellowship in Santa Cruz.
  • 8. Santa Cruz Geeks DinnerJim and Ruthie were invited to attend the monthly Santa Cruz Geeks dinner, a regular dinnerparty attended by technologists and technology professionals. Much of the evening’sconversation involved discussions of the local technology scene and the upcoming CfAFellowship activities.Santa Cruz City Press ConferenceAt the beginning of the Residency, the City of Santa Cruz held a press conference with MayorLane to introduce the Fellows to the community. Local broadcast and print journalistsattended, leading to many amusing incidents of Fellows being recognized on the streets ofSanta Cruz. Each Fellow was given the opportunity to speak about CfA’s mission as well astheir personal objectives for the Fellowship year.ConclusionThe Santa Cruz Fellowship team is incredibly grateful to our contacts in Santa Cruz City Hall,especially Peter Koht, Economic Development Coordinator, and Chris Stathis, ChiefTechnology Officer. In addition, wed like to thank our program staff at Code for America fortheir invaluable support and assistance throughout the year. This project was truly anexample of many dedicated individuals and organizations collaborating on a series ofsustainable projects, united by a shared vision of using technology to improve the citizenexperience.