Mapping Cleveland’s Proposed Ward Boundaries of 2014

Monday March 25, 2013

Cleveland City Council President Martin Sweeney released the proposed ward boundaries for 2014. This is just one day before he presents them to be voted on in City Council.

City of cleveland issues this map. A JPEG. Not even georeferenced.
– it has no street names, all features (including rivers and railroads) are all styled the same. Nothing more.

This has sadly been characteristic of the City of Cleveland’s approach to open data, particularly spatial data…

Cleveland’s approach to open data, particularly in this instance, isn’t acceptable. Nor does it help foster a culture where civic hacking flourishes.

Great maps and other visualizations including this great slippy map of new Districts of NYC by WNYC (led by jkeefe) that inspired me to do this, shouldn’t be exclusive to the tech cultures that we usually hear (NYC, SF, CHI, Austin, SEA, PDX, on and on) or wherever Code for America stops in for the year.

Later that afternoon, Current Ward 14 Councilman Brian Cummins, had received PDF maps of most of the proposed ward and posted them on his blog.
A step above from what I had before. A Shapefile would be too much to ask.

(At least Kudos to him and my current councilman, Joe cimperman, for having twitter accounts and responding to their constituents on there. )

So I began by opening up a blank layer in JOSM, loaded in the Cleveland boundary from OpenStreetMap (less things to draw that way) and began simply tracing out the boundaries over Openstreetmap tiles. I was switching windows every couple minutes, looking at the JPEG boundary, then drawing the same lines in JOSM, repeat.

Had to be a better way, was going to take a couple hours (and it did).

(Side Question: What You use to draw geometries that you’ll later process in your maps/visualizations/analysis ? )

Behold: The georeferencing tool in qgis, which would let you load an image as a layer. This, I thought would be a shortcut. I could create the polygons of the wards by tracing right over the boundaries in the image, without hauving to switch windows.

The biggest problem was that I didn’t know the projection of the JPEG.
Unfortunately, these tutorials assume that your image is georeferenced.

To georeference in qgis, you should know what the projection of your original image is in before you start. If you don’t know, you’ll have to do some guessing and trial and error. I made a few guesses of the most popular projections (4326, 3857) and then tried several ohio ones. An hour or 2 later, none of the projections worked out.

So, I scrapped that idea, I began to draw the ways again in josm.
From there, I did my usual workflow which with I’m most comfortable into tilemill;

use osm2pgsql to convert my .osm file of boundaries (which were in the form of relations, specifically multipolygons) to load into a postgis enabled database.

(I’ve been meaning to become more comfortable with geoJSON and I would have tried to save my file in josm as json but I read there’s a bug in the json export of josm that doesn’t export relations correcty, I didn’t bother to verify this yet)

Next, I used Mapbox’s (which consists of data from OpenStreetmap) technique to create a custom map that I can use as my reference base layer.

Style my layer of proposed ward boundaries in Tilemill….

Then in mapbox.js, I simply put the two layers together. voila, as shown in my map at:

Still more to do with this:

– finish up the documentation

– Tweak the colors
– Add in the census tracts so when a user hovers over an area, they can see the population of a particular place.
– add the existing boundaries too would be nice (as a separate layer for the online map)
– convert the 2014 ward boundaries (currently as a .osm) to a shapefile so others can use it.
Right now, it is available as an .osm in my github repo…

Follow this along in its github repo.

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