Long Beach, California, is “crowdsourcing” the position of Chief Data Officer prior to deciding whether it should appropriate scarce monies to hire a single individual. Under the experiment, the city will open up much of its municipal data to allow its engaged, data-driven citizens to act as a Chief Data Officer without the financial risk that actively hiring one entails. The goals of the experiment include identifying high-value data that benefits citizens, supporting the cleaning and formatting of open data, and presenting open data insights to citizens via mobile and web apps. While potential drawbacks may include the need to cultivate ongoing crowdsourcing, and speed and efficiency might suffer, officials note that the idea presents a low-stakes scalable option for small cities that allows them to test-drive the potential position.
Boston has unveiled a new program that allows those who live outside of Massachusetts to contest their parking citations remotely. Using the video chat tool Skype, parking supervisors can speak online to out-of-state persons who have provided all relevant documentation beforehand. To qualify, the person and the vehicle must reside outside of Massachusetts. At least five ticket appeals using Skype have occurred so far. The city believes it is the first in the nation to provide this service.
To assist residents who sift through trash bins looking for cans and bottles to return for a deposit, Copenhagen, Denmark, is now testing out a trashcan model that works much like the receptacles many use to separate their own recyclables. Under the program, the city has installed trashcans with external shelves to make items eligible for a deposit refund easily accessible to those who want to retrieve them. Officials note that the program has the twin benefits of both making life easier for those who sort through receptacles and making the city cleaner.
On November 1, San Francisco became the first in the nation to subsidize diapers for residents who receive benefits through the state's assistance program. Diapers are a valuable commodity for poor mothers, who sometimes have to keep babies in the same diaper until they get rashes, reuse dirty diapers, or decide not to leave the house because they do not have diapers. Families in the program bring in less than $13,000 a year, including food stamps, and officials estimate that about 1,300 of those families will qualify for the diaper subsidy.
Buffalo has joined a growing number of regions that are using business competitions as economic development tools. The city has recently completed the largest business-idea contest in the nation, 43North, which is a public-private initiative that is awarding over $5 million in prize money to start-ups, helping to both retain and attract new ventures. In return, the company gives 43North a 5 percent equity stake and commits to keeping its doors open in Buffalo for at least one year. Organizations in Pittsburgh, Detroit, Nevada, Alaska, and Wisconsin are also using these competitions to increase local entrepreneurship.
In January 2016, New York City will begin installing air quality sensors in some nail salons to monitor the environment where people work. Chemicals in nail salons can sometimes lead to eye and lung irritation, kidney damage, or birth defects. Officials state that volunteers can install small sensor chips in their lamps that test air quality and feed the information to health officials, and salon owners and workers, for monitoring. About 30 salons are expected to take part in the pilot.