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The Making of Chicago City Law - How It Works

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Published on Nov 20, 2013

Learn more at http://ChicagoCode.org

Chicago City Clerk Legislative Counsel Julia Ellis delivers an AMAZING presentation on producing the Windy City laws, and her office's work opening up the city's laws, which led to the creation of ChicagoCode.org - the first modern, user-friendly and Internet-ready edition of Chicago's laws. Ms. Ellis addressed the Open Government Chicago meetup on November 14, 2013. More information below:

If you live, work or play in Chicago, you have to know the law. For it contains all the rules, regulations and requirements of existence in the city, codifying the norms and values of daily life. From the law, homeowners get their tax rates, business owners get their zoning limits and public servants get their marching orders. Break these rules and face significant penalties. And as anyone who has ever received a parking ticket can tell you, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

All of these little do's and dont's add up to make the Chicago law the source code of the community, dictating the rhythms and cycles of civic life. And like source code is to computer software, you can't have Chicago without the Chicago Municipal Code of Laws. So it follows that the law should be the most accessible, unrestricted and user-friendly data at the fingertips of residents, business owners and public servants. Naturally, maintaining, updating and distributing the law should be the most hassle-free, efficient and quickly-executed responsibility of government. Bottom line: the law should harness every advantage of modern life to make it ridiculously easy for everyone to use, from citizen consumers to government producers.

Except it isn't, and that's a big problem for city residents, city officials and Chicago's awesome army of civic hackers. While technology has improved nearly every aspect of our daily lives, it hasn't really started improving ourcivic lives -- like how we access, use and engage with the law. Take a look atthe only real way to access the law on the Internet today. You don't need to be a technology genius to see that Chicago's single most important website could use an upgrade.

Today, we are proud to announce that upgrade is well underway atChicagoCode.org. Click on the current city law access point, then visit thework-in-progress upgrade and you'll immediately notice the improvements. ChicagoCode.org lifts and liberates the city laws from confusing, disorganized and difficult to use formats, updating the law to meet modern Internet standards everyone uses. To date, our team at the OpenGov Foundation has already upgraded your...

Ease of Use - Gone are multiple clicks and wasted time. A clean, easy-to-navigate user interface.
Ease of Reading - Gone are the tiny fonts and hard-to-read text. No eye glasses required.
Ease of Discovery - Gone is the unstructured, messy data that Google and other search engines cannot crawl, therefore cannot serve up to users like you. ChicagoCode.org runs on 100% open data build to the latest search engine specifications.
Ease of Reuse - Gone are the copyright restrictions and disorganized data that prevent you from actually using and sharing the law online. ChicagoCode.org removes all restrictions, letting you do whatever you want with the public law -- from copying-and-pasting, to sharing on social media or in a mobile application.
Ease of Updating - Gone are the numerous steps and the mistake-prone paper-based updating system city workers must endure with even the tiniest update to the law. Keeping the law current is now just a matter of executing a simple few lines of software code.
The progress you see on ChicagoCode.org comes from our civic software developers at OpenGov. We're a fiercely independent non-profit foundation with the soul of a startup. But instead of chasing Silicon Valley money, we're focused on increasing your ability to access the public information you want -- like the law -- while delivering the tools you the tools you need to actually make sense of it and use it in your job or daily life. Before turning to Chicago, we cut our teeth upgrading access to the law in Baltimore, San Francisco, the State of Maryland, and more.

ChicagoCode.org as you see today is only a start. The next step is to make it as ridiculously easy to use as possible for you in your life, in your job and inyour city. That's why our team will be in Chicago for a special meetup of OpenGovChicago on Thursday, November 14 [click for details]. Then, on Friday, November 15, we'll have an all-day session with public interest lawyers, software developers, and other people who rely on the City code to listen to the needs of all consumers and producers of the Chicago laws, and build out tools and website features to meet those specifications.


Video Courtesy of the Smart Chicago Collaborative

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