Expediting Open Records as Mandatory to Implementing Sustainable and Equitable Communities

By Dennis H. Klein

You must have heard by now the headline, “California Supreme Court Rules that a Parcel Boundary is Public Record”. That was the premise of the attorney general’s opinion in response to Boundary Solution Inc.'s (BSI) petition that started it all years ago. The Supreme Court not only ruled in favor of the people but even added sting to decision with strident language like that below chastising offending counties for their abusive behavior, saying it unconditionally needs to stop everywhere.

... The public effect of exempting this data from the Public Records Act may be widespread and devastating to the public's right to know the operations of all its government agencies. (Source: California Supreme Court Sierra Club vs. Orange County)

Figure 1: BSI's vision for a seamless map of parcel data for the U.S. (click for larger image)

As a run-up to coming to Washington DC for Nation Geospatial Advisory Council (NGAC) September 13 meeting, BSI is attempting to initiate some collaboration over how to leverage the power of this state Supreme Court decision to speed the day that the 600 USA counties still charging over $1,000 stop. What put BSI over the top in getting more involved at this time is news from Housing and Urban Affairs (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan report to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) of a need for GIS support of equitable communities (EC). Per the Atlantic Cities Emily Badger:

...HUD is now planning to help them do that by publishing extensive local data on patterns of integration and segregation, discrimination, poverty, access to good schools, jobs and transit, among other things. The tool will for the first time map all of this data for every neighborhood in the country.

Upon a closer look, many would agree that equitable communities looks like a flavor of sustainable communities (SC), mixing of income groups to reduce car trips and attendant carbon footprint or to BOTH reduce carbon footprint AND social inequity as well. Now there are two reasons for HUD and/or the Department of Transportation (DOT) to host a National Parcel Layer (NPL), complete with highly current parcels boundaries, pertinent attributes and attendant wizards to expedite multiple Sustainable Communities and Equitable Communities geospatial analytic operations.  One great way to both expedite SC / EC AND Open Records is to restrict NPL content to only to those counties with data subscription fee less than $200 to incent the cost recovery holdouts to go open records. An added incentive to go open is to get in on the multitude of apps that will proliferate with use. With some luck we wind up with a twofer  

  • HUD/DOT NPL expedites EC and SC parcel server at a low cost by holding out the expensive content.
  • HUD/DOT expedites universal open records to get closed record counties to go open to get in on all the new free automated planning services (i.e. equivalent of a 3 MAPS wizard complete with national transit stop layer).

BSI is proposing the following near term actions for making open records a hot topic until everyone can see every public record that the multinationals now see but our citizens cannot.

  • NGAC to add Open Records for the Nation as a standing agenda item.
  • Ditto National State Geographic Information Systems Council (NSGIC).
  • SEAMLESS USA Group to redo the 2009 IAAO Open Records Magazine article, adding needed rigor to the finding that transparency begets prosperity.
  • BSI continues to promote 3 MAPS (nearing final adoption, figure 2 below) as basis for SC / EC spatial operations on the parcel.
  • University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS) Sustainable Communities Subcommittee promotes SC education, expanded to include equitable communities.
  • All efforts build constituency and momentum to have the White House put sustainable communities into Obama’s Climate Change Plan which currently does not even mention driving less.

Figure 2: 3 Maps for Mill Valley, CA, is a tool to explore sustainability. (click for larger image)

Reprinted with permission from the August 2013 Boundary Solutions, Inc. newsletter.

Published Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Written by Dennis H. Klein

Published in


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