LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 5, 2014) — Mayor Jim Gray today welcomed three Fellows from Code for America, which calls itself the “Peace Corps for Geeks” because it brings superstar technologists into public service.
The Fellows are starting a 10-month partnership that will focus on improving neighborhood quality of life in Lexington through more effective and interactive city government.
Winning a highly competitive selection process, Lexington is one of just 10 governments nationwide to get the opportunity to participate in Code for America this year.
Lexington emerged as a strong partner for the 2014 Fellowship because “the city’s leadership is forward looking, committed to open government and innovative,” said Luke Norris, Government Relations Director of Code for America, who also said Lexington has “a track record of engaging with its community to help solve problems.”
The Fellows, Erik Schwartz, Lyzi Diamond and Livien Yin, will be in Lexington this month to gather data and feedback from City officials and community stakeholders. Working continuously with the City, the Fellows will develop applications to be deployed in Lexington.
“I’m thrilled to be working with the City of Lexington this year,” said Yin, a 2014 Code for America Fellow. “The City is pushing the boundaries of what is possible in municipal government and my teammates and I are honored to be part of it. I can’t wait to start exploring the city and really getting to know the community.”
Gray has long been a proponent of utilizing data and technology to drive innovation and decision-making at City Hall. Last year, Lexington launched its Open Data Portal –data.lexingtonky.gov – making more than 90 datasets available to the public in areas that include election boundaries, zoning, floodplains, and many more.
The goal, the mayor said, is to inspire creative ways to turn data into useful information that can improve the lives of Lexington’s citizens.
“Steve Jobs said innovation is what distinguishes leaders from followers,” Gray said. “This is not just for individuals or private sector businesses, but for cities, as well. To be competitive today, cities must be smarter than ever. The best way to do this is to embrace data-driven decision making, encourage experimentation, engage citizens in problem-solving and tap into the creativity and talents of the community. Our Code for America Fellowship will help us push ourselves to imagine what’s possible and then make it happen.”
Chase Southard is leading a group of local citizens that plans to work with the Fellows, Lexington’s Code for America Brigade, which is part of OpenLexington.
“We have been working since 2010 to give back to our community by contributing our time and talent towards making public data more open and building open source applications,” Southard said. “Our ‘civic hacking’ efforts are not just about creating a more transparent and open government, it’s also about sparking innovation, being more efficient, and fueling economic development, and rising to our potential. It’s a great accomplishment for Lexington to partner with Code for America – it’s the national extension of the efforts of the local brigade.”
Gray said the support of 28 local individuals, businesses and foundations (see below) made it possible for Lexington to participate in Code for America.
One of the partners, Connie Harvey, chief operating officer of commercial healthcare services for Xerox, said, “Xerox applies innovation to help simplify the way work gets done for our clients around the world. The ideas and innovations Code for America can bring to Lexington can help our city discover insights that make living here better. Xerox has deep expertise in the value of data analytics, and that’s why we’re confident this project can make a difference.”
Lexington fellow bios:
Erik Schwartz is a long-time developer. For the past two years, he’s been traveling the world with only a suitcase and a laptop all while working full-time as developer and partner at the Chicago-based technology firm Table XI, which builds web applications for small- to medium-sized businesses.
His goal as a developer is to be a skilled inventor and thoughtful teammate in the pursuit of socially-meaningful projects. And long before the travels, business, and nuptials, Erik grew up in Albion, Michigan and attended Oberlin College where he studied Computer Science and Spanish.
One of his favorite places to visit is none other than Lexington, his wife’s hometown.
Lyzi Diamond is a map maker. She comes to Code for America from Portland, Ore., where she spent her days making maps at the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries and spent her nights biking around in the rain. A self-professed geography geek, Lyzi also has a background in technical writing, community organizing, government communications, playing hand bells, racing dragon boats, and helping women learn about technology and programming.
Although she considers herself to be from Oakland, California – where she went to high school – Lyzi spent the early years of her life in many different places, including the east coast and overseas in Hong Kong. She has never been to Lexington before, but has a fascination with the area and is excited to learn as much as she can.
Livien Yin is a visual designer and web developer. This past year, she worked as a freelance designer and as a developer at Taulia, an electronic payments startup in San Francisco. She is passionate about projects that empower local communities and improve public spaces. In her spare time, Livien enjoys drawing, painting, and continuing her lifelong love of making art.
Prior to coming to San Francisco, Livien grew up in Lincoln, Mass., and moved to Portland, Oregon for undergraduate studies. She graduated in 2012 from Reed College where she majored in art and wrote her thesis on urban planning in Portland’s Lents neighborhood. This year will mark her first visit to Lexington and she couldn’t be more thrilled to get to know the city.
Lexington’s 2014 Code for America Fellowship program has been made possible by the generous financial support of:
Ben and Valerie Askren
Bingham McCutchen, LLP
Blue Grass Community Foundation
Debra Hensley’s Social Stimulus
DMD Data Systems
Mayor Jim Gray
John and Donna Hall
Phil and Marnie Holoubek
Miller Wells, PLLC
Ben and Becca Self
University of Kentucky
City of Lexington