opengovfoundation:

Announcing America’s First “Open Law City”

We’re excited to join with the Baltimore Mayor’s Office to release BaltimoreCode.org, a free software platform that empowers all Baltimore residents to discover, access and use the local laws when they want and how they want.  Highlights below.  Full background here.

BaltimoreCode.org lifts and ‘liberates’ the Baltimore City Charter and Code from unalterable, often hard to find online files —such as PDFs—by inserting them into user-friendly, organized and modern website formats.  This straightforward switch delivers significant results:  more clarity, context, and public understanding of the laws’ impact on Baltimore citizens’ daily lives. For the first-time, BaltimoreCode.org allows  uninhibited reuse of City law data by everyday Baltimore residents to use, share, and spread as they see fit. Simply, BaltimoreCode.org gives citizens the information they need, on their terms.

As BaltimoreCode.org evolves to meet the growing needs of Baltimore citizens, stakeholders, and public servants, Baltimore residents will soon have access to court decisions, information from legislative tracking services and legal definitions at their fingertips in real-time.

BaltimoreCode.org will also expand to house technical city standards, from building regulations and health ordinances, to zoning restrictions and fire codes.  Much like Google, BaltimoreCode.org offers the ability to search City existing and proposed laws by section, topic, and tags.

Baltimore City Chief Technology Officer Chris Tonjes noted, “BaltimoreCode.org is a great tool with the potential to increase citizens’ understanding of and interaction with our Code and Charter. This will lead to a more robust civic dialog and ultimately a more transparent government, a key goal of this administration.  BaltimoreCode.org is just the latest step in a broad effort to increase transparency, civic engagement, and building off OpenBaltimore, access to data.”

The Charter and Code are continually updated to reflect new legislation on OpenBaltimore.com in Microsoft Word or XML formats.  “Having the code in these file formats will make searching, studying, and learning about our laws much more efficient,” said Baltimore City Chief Data Officer Heather Hudson.

With the launch of BaltimoreCode.org, Baltimore leads city-level deployment of the groundbreaking State Decoded open law project, becoming America’s first known “open law” city.  Earlier this year, Maryland became the third “open law” state when the OpenGov team worked side-by-side with state officials to liberate the Maryland Code of Public Laws at MarylandCode.org.

BaltimoreCode.org is one of 10 projects produced during Baltimore’s Hack for Change civic hackathon in June by a team from the OpenGov Foundation, built on The State Decoded platform.  The State Decoded code is available on Github.

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