Category Archives: polyticks

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.


Cleveland Planning commission Meeting Roundup – Dec. 16, 2011

The shortest Planning Commission meeting that I’ve been to [out of the dozen or so] Ended by 10:30am.

Attendance: Krumholz, Coyne [Chair], Pickney, Cleveland [9:20a], Bowens [9:50]

Very minor ; here’s a very quick recap, and I’ll flesh it out later today or tomorrow.

– CWRU’s Planning Director said that they’re considering renovating a portion of the Temple on E. 105th for a performing arts center…

– Pending demolition for 2 buildings on Broadway. One of the buildings, former Goodman’s Furniture, has some nice architectural elements on the outside. Its owner, the city of Cleveland, is going to find out how much it will cost to salvage those elements (and find someone to take them, because they claim not to have the storage space for them). One hasty quote [for removing them] that the city received was $10k; But they’re going to get firmer quotes, and this will come back [as far as I remember] to the Commish in at the next meeting.
My guess is that if it’s anything over $10k or if they don’t have anyone interested in the elements, they’ll demolish it. The overall time frame on this building is relatively fast, city hopes to have this demo’d in 6-8 weeks. [address is somewhere in my notes, these buildings are right next to Holy Family Church, near the intersection of Harvard and Broadway].

– The zoning changes along Hough Avenue on the agenda were tabled [at the last minute] at the request of whoever initiated the zoning changes. They will be brought again before the commish in January.

SC2019 Summit – observations and tidbits [Part 1]

Here are some tidbits and observations as a participant at the SC2019, Sustainable Cleveland Summit.

I’ll try to get some more out on here soon.

I’ve been to many of these types of these events. Often, they’re called summits, conferences, seminars, or training camps. They are all 1-3 days long and discuss a social ill or goal in mind, and while you’re at the event, you’re often excited about the issue and are eager to take action. However, after the event is over, organizers and participants fail to capture the created momentum and implement it into actions.

As I walked into the summit on Wednesday morning, I felt optimistic about this one than I have felt for others. Although some of the working groups established at the first summit in 2009 fell apart, a few of them, including Green Building, Local Food, Alternative Transportation, have not, and are getting things done.

So, here goes some notes:

– This summit was said to be more business-friendly, a colleague at my table told me. There were more presentations by businesses than I had expected, by Sherwin-Williams and Ford, amongst others, demonstrating how practicing sustainable business practices led to reduced costs or increased revenues [although a certain paint company forgot to mention during their presentation of sustainable business practices throughout their history when they stopped using lead in their products, haha].

– Andrew Watterson announced that there will be recycling containers along the sidewalk in downtown by the end of 2011.

– A Piece of Cleveland, a deconstruction company, (owned by fellow Kalamazoo College alum), mentioned there’s a huge market for furniture made out of constructed materials. This market is for affluent clients and businesses (some of his cited clients include the Restaurants Fahrenheit and Touch). I hope for the market to eventually expand to most building but that will require for deconstruction prices to go down. For the prices to go down, there has to be cheaper ways to deconstruct or or other new materials would have to increase their prices.

– There are at least 8 cities who have adopted zero waste policies (including San Francisco, Austin, Seattle, San Jose, and others ones that have new environmental policies). I wonder if those cities have reached their zero waste goals yet and whether these policies includes businesses in the city.

– One major kudos to the organizers: they invited several [probably about 10-20] high school students to participate.

I only spoke to one of them for about 30 seconds, a young man from John Marshall HS, who asked me and the rest of us during a very chaotic small group brainstorming session if any of us would be interested to speak at his school about careers in green industries. Until then, I had not thought about the value of having teenagers at the summit. Not just for the summit’s sake, but for their own sake. As I was in the discussion, trying to make sense of all of the thoughts and confusion going on in our brainstorming group, I remembered that I would have been in that guy’s shoes.

I remembered about a few older adults in my life that provided advice and guidance and mostly importantly, their own experiences and career path were models for me to follow, Without them, I probably would not have known about the opportunities and perspectives that I have come to known and experienced. As an adolescent, I heard about these types [after the fact, they were already over] of conferences, events, and opportunities, and sometimes wondered how to access or learn about those opportunities [and looking back, although there were some I didn’t have, I know that I’m fortunate to have the opportunity and access to some experiences and events: ones that a Cleveland Public high School Student probably doesn’t have].

I regret not talking to them more at the summit, hearing their ideas and thoughts about the summit. I gave him my email address and I hope he contacts me. I’m sorry I forgot to ask for his contact information.

Some other quotes:

“The best plan that we have is the one that we do.” Frank Jackson

Cleveland’s New Trash Rules

Ultimately, is this a smart move for the city ?
Yes, they are finally bringing back curbside recycling (after axing it in 2004 due to budget cuts).

The commentary on the article from is depressing and very pessimistic, highlighting commenters’ distrust of the city government to effectively manage this operation and distrust of RFID technology.

However, RFID is not mentioned in the legislation, posted in The City Record, the city council’s record of events), specifically the August 25, 2010 edition, [PDF] [begins on pg. 1377, which is also pg. 84 of the PDF] . The legislation also does not mention whether RFID will be implemented in the future. The legislation passed unanimously by City Council on August 20.

The council also passed legislation on the limits on the amount of trash you can dispose each week, based on volume. I’m an advocate for this model but it should be based on weight since Cleveland is charged by the landfills by the weight of the trash and not the volume.
On the whole, it is a step in the right direction.

See also this article for an another prospective on how RFID would change the way people take out their trash.

Questions on Cleveland’s new food truck program

While food trucks are growing in popularity (well, the number of the them and the amount of press they receive) in other American cities (like LA and midwestern cities like Milwaukee [warning: poor web design alert], there’s only notable one food truck in Cleveland so far, Dim and Dem Sum.

Cleveland’s city council wants to add more by beginning a program to offer loans to prospective food truck operators. The city of Cleveland’s RFP (request for proposals) is here

Having more food options in the city is great, although the program’s description and RFP is extremely vague, which concerns me on a couple points including:

“the applicant will not operate their cart in association with a national food chain.” What constitutes a national food chain ? I would presume burger king wouldn’t qualify for the program [which is for the best] but does this mean that a company from Columbus or Pittsburgh cannot also have one in Cleveland ?

And more importantly, the RFP does not state whether all food trucks that want to open in Cleveland must apply to this specific program and follow the specific guidelines (that are listed in the RFP) . Since Dim and dem sum has been operating for a few months already, I would hope the city is allowing any food truck to open in the city, as long as they have the correct permits.

This program, as far as I have read, just offers loans [with a stipulation that the cart’s exterior will be designed by CPA (Cleveland Public Art)] and puts the food trucks at 4 different locations around the city [adelbert and euclid, public square, the harbor/voinovich park @ e9th, 14th and euclid]. pg. 2 says the trucks are allowed to rotate, but are they allowed to go anywhere else !? If the trucks are restricted to only those 4 locations, it would eliminate one of the key characteristics of food trucks, actually being mobile.

If you know of any other food trucks, please let me know in the comments.

City cutting more trees in Old Brooklyn

In response to the threat of Ash Borer beetles, the city has cut down several Ash trees in Old Brooklyn in 2010. About 10 of these trees have been cut down on Mayview, where I reside.

Last year, I blogged my resignation to the city’s removal of ash trees on my planting strip (the space between the sidewalk and curb). Because our tree was the only one cut down at the time, I didn’t realize its impact on the street. However, after reading an article by Michael Gill in a December issue of the Cleveland Scene and seeing more trees cut down on my street [even in the snow], I’m having second thoughts about the city of Cleveland’s plan to cut down the remaining Ash Trees.

Why keep the trees ?
Aesthetics. They also provide shade and cool down the front of houses and while walking through the neighborhood [although I’m not sure if that can be calculated].

Unfortunately, the city, planting the Ash trees (on Mayview, they were planted in the late 1970s), didn’t follow a rule of biodiversity, to plant different types of trees to prevent a bug or disease from affecting all of the trees. Any new tree replacement should include different trees and I’ll see if that’s being done for Mayview and Cleveland.  A 2009 study by a group of Entomologists from OSU and a couple other midwest universities stated that there are several insecticides that are effective. 

More questions to be answered: do the insecticide treatments have any negative environmental effects ? Has Chicago’s or Milwaukee’s alternative strategies to cutting been effective and can they be replicated in Cleveland ?
After reading a bit more on it, I would like to find out more if our trees can be saved [though I’m still figuring out how high of a priority it is for me to take more action] and whether the insecticide treatments have any negative environmental effects. I don’t know how much it will cost to keep them. It’s something that I’ll talk to my neighbors about and think about.

PS – While writing this, I found to be a great source of information of Ash Borer beetles and communities’ responses.

City to Cut Down Trees to Combat Ash Borer

One of the things that I enjoy about Old Brooklyn is my tree-lined street. The Ash Trees provide shade, keep temperatures down a couple degrees, and give the street some character.

In late July, the household received a letter (viewable here on flickr) that the City of Cleveland will be removing the tree (I assume that this includes the other Ash trees on my street) in front of my house because it is susceptible to the Emerald Ash Borer. I want to keep the trees, but I am resigned on this decision because it was recommended state of Ohio and US department of Agriculture.

My sister, who lives next door, didn’t take so nicely, feels this is completely unjustified because no exterior damage to the trees on our street has appeared and the city was spending money on cutting down trees instead of funding education, the Cleveland free clinic (not THE Cleveland clinic), and other municipal services. She also fears the street will look less nicer and crime will go up. She also prompted a good question – how much will this cost, and who is footing the bill ?

My grandpa, an retiree from Nelson’s (tree-cutting service) prompted whether soap and water would be enough to combat it.

After all of these questions and observations, I haven’t seen any work on this project start or any other mention. There’s still more questions to be answered. I’ll try to start by calling the city’s Urban Forestry Service (yes, cleveland has one) this week. I wonder how many trees in the city will be cut down, and if the work is concentrated in a specific neighborhood or area. What will trees will be replanted in place of the Ash Borer (Heavens to Betsy if crabapple trees, originally cut down and replaced by the Ash Trees in the late 1970s on my street, return). How have other cities in the midwest responded to the Ash Borer ?

Absentee Ballot !

I finally got my absentee ballot from Cuyahoga County today, 18 days before election day (Nov. 7th). Whoo !

I’m away at college and have had time to keep up with the election news much (and which issues are getting attention by the press and citizens while chatting at the diners…), but the League of Women Voters provides voter guides clearly explaining what the issues are on the ballot and the people running (it’s all of the front page).

I also host a radio show and help run on K college’s radio station – WJMD. No, we’re not up yet, and gives a heads up why not, and thoughts about the new (nearly finalized) regulations regarding recordkeeping for webcasting music.


Absentee Voting for College students [Cuyahoga County Edition]

It’s been about two weeks since I sent out my application for my absentee ballot.

The link for getting an absentee ballot (for cuyahoga county) is :

(there you can print out an application for one or if you don’t have a functioning printer, you’ll have to go to your local library and they’ll probably have the application there.) I don’t know why the call it an application because the BOE doesn’t reject any eligible voter.
Two weeks later.
No ballot yet. I’ll call the BOE in a few days to find out why I have not received yet.

And the Cleveland area League of Women Voters have not published their election guide yet. Project Vote-Smart is another resource to see the legislative record of what the candidates and current elected officials do when they’re in office.

I’m thinking about skipping class on Election Day to help work the polls in Kalamazoo.

Edit: I called the BOE today around noon, a real person immediately answered the phone, transferred me, and then another worker answered explaining that the BOE is not sending out absentee ballots until the first week of October. So if you already applied for one, that’s why it hasn’t come.
Check out my other post for League of Women Voters (voters’ guide) and an update of my absentee ballot.
Although I have my doubts about the Cuyahoga County board of elections in general, at least their workers in this case were competant.

What happened to those people we elected to run Ohio for us ?

So, exactly, what has the Ohio Senate and House did recently besides pass leglislation for standardized bike laws across Ohio ?

I couldn’t answer that recently either, so I wanted to find out. Easier said than done. Eventually, I found out They were preventing the Dept. of Agriculture from going after some Milk producers (well on Friday). For all the effort that the web2.0 slorefest has done for and easier access to news (like RSS feeds), the records of our Ohio general Assembly (the title for the Ohio House and Senate) are still in web design circa 2000.

Instead of having all the information in separate (for each meeting and house) PDF’s, there’s definitely better setups out there, like a CMS (maybe Drupal or something else), that could offer features like issue specific pages of new leglisation and debate, (it’s not affiliated with the US govt directly, but they just pull all the info from the Library of Congress’ THOMAS database – (which is quite spiffy and Props to the Govt for providing that).

Plus, they could get good P.R. (something that they need these days) by hiring local geeks to set it up (especially using college kids my age or grads who have trouble finding employment here).

If the government [on all 3 levels] and more concerned citizens want other citizens to become at more aware of what the govts are doing, we should and could take advantage of the technology available to allow the people become more informed of what’s going on and how it can affect them.

(Of course, will citizens become more informed if it means less effort on their part and the information is there ?) Well, I think some will, but not too many.
After reading over this entry, I feel more cynical and just remembered the Plain Dealer used to publish a weekly review of what they’ve did, not sure if they still do (and when).