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True Growth 2.0 “Non-Profit” Hackathon

Hackathon

It’s official! The first True Growth 2.0 Hackathon now has a date, location, and theme (and it’s going to be awesome):

Dates: November 30th & December 1st, 2014
Location: T4G – 384 Lancaster Avenue, Saint John (west)

The True Growth 2.0 “Non-Profit” Hackathon is a 2 day event where creative and talented members of the ICT community will gather, collaborate and innovate – with a focus on the non-profit sector in Saint John and surrounding areas.

Over the course of the weekend, individuals and teams will come together to brainstorm and then develop “prototypes” or “proof-of-concepts” of websites, applications, mobile apps – anything where technology can be used as an enabler – to solve a problem, to create an opportunity, or to just have some fun with.

This event – something of a proof-of-concept in its own right – will be the first of what we hope will be many more events to come, where we will build on the interest we have seen to date for such an initiative and the momentum that we are sure will follow. Come out and show your support!

See below for some additional information on the event. Click here to register and we hope to see you there!

Please check back often to keep up on the details as they continue to unfold.

Full event details and information can be found here:

Don’t forget to sign up!

 
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‘No downside’ to open data policy

Digital key in pixeled keyhole, 3d renderThere was a great article discussing Greg Norton‘s “Open Data” motion to Saint John Common Council in today’s Telegraph Journal!

The article below was written by Ryan Melanson:

City Council is set to revisit the idea of establishing an open data policy for municipal information at Monday night’s meeting, with Coun. Greg Norton pushing a motion that will define clear guidelines on what city data should be released, when it should be done and by what standards.

Open data, as Norton’s motions describes it, refers to the free publishing of city information, in accessible and machine-readable formats, without any restrictions on use.

This means anything from geographic data like transit routes and stops, financial information dealing with the spending of public money, where steps have recently been taken around posting salaries and funding details to external agencies, or more specific, obscure data like a percentage of people who don’t pay their water bill on time, or police traffic enforcement statistics. The possibilities are endless, and may even depend on what people want to see or use, Norton said.

The city already does a fair job in terms of having information available, Norton said, but it’s not always easy to retrieve, buried in archives or requiring other steps.

“This will mean we’re not layering all our information in red tape for the folks who want to use it to create solutions to societal or governmental issues.”

While increased transparency is key, Norton said the problem-solving and innovation possibilities are a kicker that gets him excited.

Shawn Peterson, an award winning developer and ICT worker at T4G in Saint John, said having raw data in the right open formats creates opportunities for the private sector to come up with solutions in a way governments simply don’t have the time or resources for.

Peterson’s Propertize.ca mines data from the provincial government to help users compare their property tax assessments with others nearby. He took government data, analyzed it and developed it into a useful application with money-making potential.

Those are the possibilities with open data, new solutions and job creation, he said.

“You see governments throwing money at this and that, that’s the worst thing you can do. How about you start putting data out there, and then someone can create a business based off that, how cool would that be?”

Norton pointed to HotSpot Parking Inc., led by Fredericton business student Phillip Curley, who created a mobile parking payment system with information from the city’s traffic department. The company is expected to test in Saint John soon.

“He created an app and a company using that data he mined from the municipality,” Norton said.

He added these possibilities could be increased further if the province’s three major cities could work to create open-data pools under the same consistent standards. Similar steps have been taken between municipalities in Ontario.

“Because that increases the usability of the information we’re going to disclose to the public and to the people who want to access and mine it.”

With increased co-operation between Saint John, Moncton and Fredericton a new priority, a new budget looming, and a bustling tech sector ready to jump at sets of raw data and their possible uses, the time is right to draft a true policy, Norton said.

“There’s no downside to this,” Peterson added, noting so much data is already in existence, just simply not available, or only available in a hard-to-find PDF files, useless to developers.

“The worst case scenario is the city releases some data sets and nobody uses it.”

Norton said if his motion passes, a priority for him will be ensuring any data policy is implemented correctly, with sets released consistently and in a timely manner.

“I’ll be pushing for strict implementation guidelines, so that once this information is available, it’s not antiquated by the time we post it,” he said, referencing large amounts of dated information on department sections of the city’s website.

“If we do it right we could release data sets that other cities aren’t, and do it in a way that’s useful and improves openness and transparency.

Councillor Norton’s motion is below:

Open Data Policy: October 28, 2013

Mayor Mel Norton and Members of Common Council

Your Worship and Councillors:

Subject: Open Data Policy

 

Background:

The City of Saint John has demonstrated a commitment to transparent and inclusive government. The benefits of establishing an open data policy framing this commitment can lead to improved coordination and information sharing between City of Saint John agencies, while the development of such a policy can also fuel economic development in the civic-tech sector and with a healthy ICT sector in our community the time is ripe. It is also widely understood that beyond just improving transparency a clear open data policy improves governance itself.

Open Data is a philosophy and practice to provide some of the municipally-generated data to the public in a machine-readable format, without the restrictions of copyright, patent or other control mechanisms and, most importantly, free of charge. The most commonly used open data focuses on structured data, such as geographic data, scheduling, statistics, and demographic data. It is important to highlight that the City of Saint John is a leader in accessible, open and transparent information by way of many departments. For example, the GIS department, is a leader in geographic data that is mined by many agencies external to the City of Saint John, the Common Clerk is also instrumental in maintaining and archiving all official records, contracts and deeds. Many of our departments provided open data in their respective commitment to transparent and inclusive government.

The objective of open data is to eliminate burdens to access data created or managed by government agencies, while respecting privacy and sensitivity concerns.  It enables entrepreneurs, academics, community groups, other learning communities, developers, and interested citizens to use data to improve the social experience and stimulate economic growth through data applications. Open data has been fueling economic development as reported by a recent study, which found that half a million jobs have been created around mobile and web apps. Lastly, the overarching aim of this motion is to set in policy what many divisions of the City of Saint John are currently practicing on a continual and timely basis.

Motion:

(1.) Engage all City of Saint John departments, agencies, boards and commissions, including the Saint John Police, Power Commission of the City of Saint John and Saint John Water for input in the drafting of a City of Saint John Open Data Policy.

(2.) Request the City Manager to draft an open data policy that reflects the input received during the engagement process to be considered for adoption by Saint John Common Council and subsequently all departments, agencies boards and commissions.

 

Yours Sincerely,

Greg Norton

Councillor (Ward 1)

City of Saint John

 
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ZoneSJ – Saint John’s New Zoning Bylaw

It’s an exciting time for Saint John – a new draft zoning bylaw has just been released for public review!

Why do we need a new zoning bylaw?

The City must adopt a new zoning bylaw that conforms with the municipal plan, PlanSJ.  When PlanSJ was adopted by common council in January 2012, a new land use map was adopted and conflicting and incompatible land uses identified.  ZoneSJ, the zoning bylaw, will establish provisions and regulations that implement the policies set out in PlanSJ.

What is ZoneSJ?

The city has a website up with everything you need to know:

My suggestion is to start with the Guide to ZoneSJ document, it’s a great source of information – including many common questions and answers.

The Draft Zoning Bylaw

The complete draft zoning bylaw is now available to read:

How will my property be affected?

The city has provided a great online mapping tool to allow you to view the proposed zoning changes at http://maps.saintjohn.ca/zonesj-en.

Clicking on an area will provide information about the proposed new zoning type along with links to additional details about the new zone.

ZoningMap

An address search is also available – letting you quickly find a specific property:

ZoneMapSearch

 

ZoneSJ Open House Events

The city is hosting open house events across the city to present the draft bylaw.

These events will be a great opportunity to learn more and to ask any questions that you may have:

ZoneSJ Open House Events

 

 

Have comments about the draft bylaw?

Send them along to planning@saintjohn.ca – and do so before the cut-off date:

The Growth & Community Development Service is asking for final comments to be submitted no later than Friday November 29, 2013 in order to facilitate a timely turn-around and report back to Council on what has been heard about the new draft Zoning By-law.

 
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True Growth Is Community-Driven Plan

Today’s Telegraph-Journal posted my Letter to the Editor:

True Growth Is Community-Driven Plan

The editorial “Will True Growth define the problem” (Sept. 3) stated True Growth 2.0 “put the cart before the horse” in terms of defining the problems it’s trying to solve.

I was disappointed to see The Telegraph-Journal suggest there lacks a common understanding of the problems this region must overcome, considering the extensive process True Growth 2.0 undertook to reach consensus on the issues and solutions.

In 2012, the True Growth Steering Committee spent four months meeting with dozens of individuals and organizations to understand regional economic development challenges. From these conversations, we identified six priority sectors and five goal areas for further development. The True Growth 2.0 recommendations were adopted by all five municipalities and shared publicly. In early 2013, 11 working groups were formed to develop recommendations for these priority sectors and goal areas. These groups were tasked with articulating problems and developing sector-specific recommendations.

The 36 True Growth 2.0 projects were born from these recommendations and are being led by our economic development organizations and seconded resources from the private sector. The projects differ in size and scope, from industry accelerators to the West-East pipeline, but share common goals of leveraging regional strengths to grow the economy.

The projects are being driven by teams who understand the problems and want to implement solutions. It’s a community-driven plan being led by our community’s economic development agency with the support of a broad network. I believe this new approach and spirit of collaboration will be what moves our region forward.

SHAWN PETERSON

True Growth 2.0 Steering Committee

This letter was in response to the following Telegraph-Journal editorial that ran last week:

Will True Growth define the problem?

The residents of Greater Saint John are engaging in a little creative destruction of their own. Under the loose leadership of Enterprise Saint John, teams of community volunteers are striving to set 36 job creation projects in motion.

These initiatives range from “hackathons,” designed to bring the city’s computer programs together, to a proposal to renew the park benches in King Square through corporate sponsorship.

It all sounds like fun, and it’s great to see people showing so much enthusiasm for the goal of improving Greater Saint John. We have to ask, though, whether the True Growth 2.0 movement hasn’t put the cart before the horse.

Building consensus on how to proceed requires a common understanding of the problem that people are trying to overcome. Without clearly defined goals and a reason to consider those goals important, people aren’t as likely to support the changes needed to achieve progress.

There may well be 36 problems to overcome in this community, but if there are, the nature of those problems has not been clearly articulated to the public, nor has the need for the particular solutions that True Growth teams are striving to implement.

We would prefer to see the local governments, businesspeople and community organizations of Greater Saint John reach agreement on the problems that have hindered growth in the region, then move out into the public, spreading awareness of these problems and why change is needed.

Once that work has been accomplished, there will be a broader base of support for debating possible policy solutions; without it, we fear most taxpayers and voters will not understand what all the fuss is about.

What do you think?

You can learn more about True Growth 2.0 (and get involved) over at Enterprise Saint John: http://www.enterprisesj.com/true_growth

 
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Saint John Ward 3 By-Election Prediction Results

2012 PredictionsThroughout the Saint John Ward 3 By-Election, I ran a poll asking people to predict the outcome.

I posted a snapshot of the results prior to Election day:

After that post, I received additional entries to bring the total submissions up to 40.

As there was only one candidate to choose from, I also asked people to predict the number of votes they would receive (along with total votes cast in case of a tie).

Prediction Winner

Bragging rights (until the next Ward 3 By-Election) now go to:

  • Dave Drinnan – who lives in Ward 3successfully predicted the winning candidate (Gerry Lowe), and he was closest to predicting  the total votes received 1000 (actual was 1028).  He was also pretty close on the total votes cast, predicting 2,400 (actual was 2,782).

Group Prediction Results

When looking at the total responses for the entire group, people were strongly predicting a Michelle Hooton victory (with a close race between Gerry Lowe and Graeme Stewart-Robertson for second place):

Candidate

Position

Michelle Hooton

56%

Gerry Lowe

17%

Graeme Stewart-Robertson

17%

Group Prediction Surprises

The group ended up predicting the wrong candidate, and the percentages were quite off when compared to the actual the vote breakdown: Saint John Ward 3 By-Election Results

If you only look at Ward 3 predictors, the results closer; but, Michelle Hooton was still clearly leading within that group.

 
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Saint John Ward 3 By-Election Results

Below are the unofficial results of the Saint John Ward 3 By-Election:

Candidate

Votes

Brian Boyd

69

Barbara Ellemberg

74

Michelle Hooton

816

Mark LeBlanc

225

Allen Leslie

24

Gerry Lowe

1,028

Anne-Marie Mullin

273

Graeme Stewart-Robertson

264

Voter turnout was 2,782 out of 11,663 voters (23.85%).

Congratulations Gerry!

 
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Saint John 2013 Ward 3 By-Election Election Prediction

Update: I’ve updated the charts below to reflect the additional predictions made yesterday; however, the percentages have remained relatively stable.

Tomorrow is election day in Saint John – the Ward 3 By-Election is nearly over; but, you still have a chance to change the outcome!

As everyone keeps asking me how the “prediction contest” is going, I’ve decided to post the current survey snapshot in the hope that this may spur more people into casting a ballot.

There are currently 36 responses from people – the majority of responses coming from within Ward 3.


Ward 3 Areas

The Prediction:

The chart below shows who these 36 people are “predicting” to win a seat:

Ward 3 Predictions

Analysis

It appears that is Michelle Hooton is the favorite to win – with both Gerry Lowe and Graeme Stewart-Robertson close behind.  What do you think?  Are they right?

For your reference, during the last Ward 3 By-Election (Dec 2010), Mel Norton was elected with 516 votes. Total number of votes cast was: 1,941.

Note: This contest is simply for fun.  I’m very curious to see if anyone can accurately pick the winning candidate – along with number of votes (for bragging rights).  The actual outcome, as always, is decided by the people to go and vote.  If you want to see your candidates win – get out and vote!

 

Additional Information

Looking to get your picks submitted into the contest?  Submit your picks here (up until 8pm on Election Night):

Looking to learn more about the candidates?

 
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Ward 3 Candidate Video Interviews

YouTubeVarious broadcast students attending Atlantica Centre for the Arts have created video interviews of the Saint John Ward 3 By-Election Candidates.

Check them out below!

Read more about the candidates here:

Brian Boyd

Barbara Ellemberg

Michelle Hooton

Mark LeBlanc

No interview.

Allen Leslie

Gerry Lowe

Anne-Marie Mullin

Graeme Stewart-Robertson

 

 
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Predict the Ward 3 By-Election Winner

Voting MachineThink you have what it takes to correctly pick the winning candidate for the Ward 3 Municipal By-Election?

You did so well at predicting the winners in the 2012 election, that I’m curious if you can do it again.

You can submit your pick here:

Also, don’t forget to actually vote!

Looking to learn more about the candidates?

 
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Saint John 2013 Ward 3 By-Election – Candidate’s Email Answers

Social Media ElectionAs was done during the 2012 Saint John Municipal Election, Sarah Ingalls (@s_ingalls) and Sally Blount (@SaintJohnSally), are reaching out to the various Ward 3 by-election candidates to ask a set of questions, and I will be posting the responses for everyone to see.

The questions and answers generated a lot of traffic last time, and we hope to do the same again – allowing voters in Ward 3 an opportunity to hear more from each candidate to allow them to make an informed decision!

Below are the questions being asked to each candidate via email:

1. What are your top two priorities?

2. What is your professional background and training?

3. What is your volunteer experience?

4. What are your thoughts on the current city transit situation?

5. Are you familiar with the bus system and have you used it on a regular basis?

6. What do you see as Ward 3’s biggest issues?

7. Are you willing to address issues with city staff and do any restructuring that may need to be done?

8. Do you support the creation of a Multiplex in Saint John?

9. What improvements do you feel can be made to Saint John’s current garbage/compost collection?

10. Do you support the return of food trucks to Saint John?

11. There has been recent discussion on the state of the Jellybean Houses (purchased by the city in case they were needed when constructing the Peel Plaza complex and parking garage) and how the city should proceed with these houses. Opinions vary between the buildings being unsalvageable and should be torn down, to restoring the properties. How do you feel the city should proceed?

12. Recent news articles have highlighted issues with upcoming union contract negotiations, specifically the guaranteed staffing levels for Outside Workers Local 18, and the no layoff clause for the Saint John Police Association (with the understanding they report to the Police Commission). Given these provisions are not carried over in other union contracts, or to other departments within the city, what challenges/opportunities do you feel this presents for the city of Saint John?

Below are the answers received (so far):

Read more…

 
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