Background

For some artists, the passion to create never rests. Always looking for another media to challenge his ability, Frank continually ventures out into new development arenas. Making government work better was an overwhelming challenge, but this only fanned the flame of Frank’s creative passion.

The newspaper article below was published by the San Francisco Chronicle in 1996 on their front page, heralding Frank Kliewer’s new role in Internet innovation, and bringing his Open Source perspective into building the future. The article tells of Frank’s role and intentions in bringing interactive mapping to the Internet for the first time. With all of today’s online mapping still to be developed, the process could only be likened by the press to transparent overlays of data on a map in a printed encyclopedia. It is important to realize that Frank’s driving vision was to free-up information for public use, while making government service move faster through the Internet in a new way. He saw mapping as the best vehicle…

Oakland Spins Trailblazing Data on Web

Free access to zoning, economic statistics

by Rick Del Vecchio, Chronicle East Bay Bureau

Monday, July 15, 1996

Oakland is set to begin a pioneering experiment in freedom of information on the Internet, providing fine-grained, interactive neighborhood maps and economic data at no cost to anyone with a computer, a modem and access to the World Wide Web.

Starting later this week, clicking on a button at Oakland’s Web site will give computer users access to information about 600 individual properties in the city’s downtown. Visitors can tell the system’s software to zoom in on parcels. They’ll get back a variety of graphics, tables and text, layered like transparent overlays in an old-fashioned encyclopedia.

Experts say Oakland appears to be cutting a new road through cyberspace, at least for state and local government. They said no other agency distributes catalogs of raw data that computer users can manipulate without having to pay an intermediary.

“This change is kind of like an epoch in terms of how government services are going to be delivered,” said Frank Kliewer, operations manager for Oakland’s office of planning and building. “. . . This is just the very tip of an iceberg that’s gradually going to become exposed.”

Many governmental agencies have joined the Internet fad, but most of what they publish is static and much of it is self-serving: lists, schedules, politicians’ mug shots.San Carlos,Mountain View and Berkeley are among the notable exceptions; their Web sites offer how-to guidelines for city government and function as community newsletters.

The Oakland map initially covers only a small radius around City Hall. But city technicians hope to have the remaining 3,400 parcels downtown and a redevelopment area near the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum online by the end of July. No later than the end of the year, they plan to include all 100,000 properties in the city.

The Oakland project is being road-tested over the next few weeks, and technicians say the ride could be bumpy. The map runs on software that had to be invented for the task. Kliewer discourages sightseers and warns that users should try to get on during off-hours, between 5 p.m. and 9 a.m.

A short list of information will be available initially: aerial photos, street layouts, property lines, the names and addresses of lot owners and planning and zoning guidelines.Oakland officials see developers and builders as their primary audience for the prototype project.

If the map holds up in the test run, city technicians promise to do much more with it. They have the capability of overlaying at least a dozen other databases, including census and other demographic information, property values and sale prices, crime and election reports and utility locations in neighborhoods prone to devastating earthquakes and fires. Which ones will be piped to the Internet depends on what the public asks for in the coming months.

Ultimately, city officials hope to add files from agencies at all levels of government. “This is just the beginning,” Kliewer said. “The future is pretty unlimited.”

CONSOLIDATING PUBLIC RECORDS

All of this data is now available to anyone under the Public Records Act. But it’s kept by a variety of agencies and is often frustrating and expensive, if not impossible, for an ordinary citizen to get at.

Oakland’s move comes at a time when local governments throughout the state are struggling over how to organize public information in cyberspace. No one agrees on what technical and legal standards are needed to enable information owners and users to make a smooth transition from paper to electronic storage.

One problem is that state laws provide no clear guidance about how to handle public requests for computer records — requests that often involve having to create new documents.

First Amendment advocates argue that agencies should provide information as a standard procedure, whether the data is in paper or electronic form. Some agencies want discretion over the form and cost. The two sides haven’t been able to resolve their issues legislatively but continue to talk in hopes of finding common ground.

Oakland points toward one possible solution: anonymous, free network access to primary data through government computers.

“I think Oakland’s at the forefront of where we should be going by making information readily available,” said Assembly woman Debra Bowen, D-Torrance. “The long-range value of making the information available free is greater than they could get by charging short-term.”

At the other extreme is Los Angeles County. Acting under a temporary state law designed to help struggling counties make money and avoid layoffs by selling goods and services, county supervisors signed up a private company to sell electronic access to its court system. Newspaper publishers sued to block the contract from taking effect.

LEGACY OF HILLS FIRE

Oakland’s experiment is possible because it is one of the few local governments to have gone heavily into the technology needed to create virtual maps. Faced with an urgent need for detailed maps to restore roads, utilities and structures after the devastating 1991 hills fire — and warned that even worse disasters could be ahead –Oakland voters elected to spend $5 million developing the virtual mapping know-how.

The technology, called geographical information systems, makes it possible to pull together volumes of otherwise unrelated data in one format. Once the digital map of the burned area was complete, mapping the entire city was a logical next step.

Duplicating Oakland’s effort could cost a city of 100,000 about $4 million. Few agencies have that kind of money, but some are pooling their efforts. A system similar to Oakland’s is being developed for a group of local government agencies in Silicon Valley; private companies with a $3 million NASA grant are creating the system, and the agencies will share the expense of putting it to use.

Oakland officials believe the system could boost Oakland’s economy by reducing businesses’ travel and wait times for scoping out projects and getting permits from City Hall.

Within a few weeks,Oakland plans a second leap into the online world: a program that lets builders to take out permits online. The idea is not only to save builders money but to free city staff from routine paperwork.

“If we can do in minutes what normally takes potentially hours, that frees up staff to work in other areas,” Kliewer said. “Like answering the phone live instead of putting the public through voice mail.”

This article appeared on page A – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

 


 

Frank Kliewer Crime Mapping and Jerry Brown

Almost 4 years after bringing interactive mapping to the Internet, Frank Kliewer was still innovating uses for this powerful new tool. Former California Governor Jerry Brown had now become  Mayor of Oakland (before becoming Governor of California again). Jerry Brown embraced Frank’s innovation and pushed for the public release of a new application version he called “CrimeWatch” which was originally developed for internal use by the Police Department. CrimeWatch mapped the 17 most serious crimes (tracked by the FBI) for investigation purposes. Jerry Brown’s  engagement was about letting the public get involved in protecting their neighborhoods as well. Frank has many stories to tell about the successes and the challenges around privacy issues, and battles with the Information Technology folks. 

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The official authorized Internet site for F D Kliewer and Associates, LLC. Frank is a consultant, artist, innovator, developer, manager, teacher and persistent gardener.