Remember when the City of Portland was a shining example of open data? It can be again

There was a time—not so long ago—when the City of Portland was at the forefront of making civic data transparent and open. And while Portland has stumbled a bit in terms of leading the charge, we now have a very real opportunity to pick our open selves up, dust our data off, and get back in the running.

Portland is in the process of rewriting its Comprehensive Plan, a 20-year plan that sets the framework for the physical development of the city. The theme of the new rewrite focuses on issues of affordable housing, homelessness, and neighborhood vitality. There’s also a tiny clause, nestled in a section about community involvement, that sets broad, but powerful terms for an open data policy that would be one of the most innovative in the nation. Here’s what it says:

Policy 2.11: Open Data. Ensure planning and investment decisions are a collaboration among stakeholders, including those listed in Policy 2.1. The City works with the software development community, data providers, and other professionals with relevant expertise to advise on open data practices and priorities, ensure oversight, and to maximize the utility of City data sets. Data collected and generated by the City are:

● Publicized, accessible, and widely shared.

● Open by default, in the public domain, freely redistributable, and adhere to open standards.

Exceptions may be made due to compelling concerns of privacy, security, liability or cost, and should only be granted in accordance with clearly defined criteria and oversight.

Why is this important?

With this amendment, we’re committing as a city to prioritize information equity, two-way communication, and a transparent democratic process into our urban growth strategy.

But let’s not start patting one another on our open data backs yet. This topic is still open for discussion. Which means it could not happen at all. And we could go back to where we’ve been for the past few years. With no discussion or leadership from the City of Portland around this topic.

So if open data and civic transparency are important to you, please take a moment to read PICOC’s call to action around the topic. And act.