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Better government through civic engagement

2015: The Year in Building Permits

2015: The Year in Building Permits
2015 was a big year for building permits. This year, Accela led a coalition of civic technology companies and other stakeholders in the development of the first ever shared data specification for building permit data. This new standard is being implemented in cities across the country and will provide new and powerful insights into the operation of cities and the changing character of communities. To demonstrate the power of this new standard, we’re updating our year-end building permit review web app from last year to showcase four jurisdictions that are now publishing data in the new Building and Land Development Specification (BLDS) format. You can view our updated building permit review application here. This is a remarkably simple application – built with open source components and hosted on GitHub. But it provides some useful insights into the permitting activities of these four jurisdictions. For example, while permit issuance in other jurisdictions sta......
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The Mobile Citizen: Accela, the Construct API and...Lasagna? (Part 3 of 4)

The Mobile Citizen: Accela, the Construct API and...Lasagna? (Part 3 of 4)
This is the third post in a series on "The Mobile Citizen," a look at how the Civic Platform is helping agencies of all sizes engage their mobile citizens and stay ahead of the "mobile mind shift." ------ Wednesdays in the New York City office means a rotating assortment of cuisines for team lunch (follow @dshaeffbk for the occasional #foodtweet). Typically we gather to talk about work, upcoming weekend plans, sports, movies, anything really. Every now and then new faces will spice things up. Earlier this month, Mark Headd and Seth Axthelm from our technical evangelist team were visiting. They work to enable, support, educate and innovate with Accela partners and customers to expand the Civic Platform. The lunch gave Mark and Amir Reavis-Bey, a co-founder of Civic Insight, the chance to catch up between bites of lasagna. As I eavesdropped on their conversation I realized that Mark and Amir's relationship......
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You Can Build Your Own Mobile App without Writing a Single Line of Code. (Yes, You.)

You Can Build Your Own Mobile App without Writing a Single Line of Code. (Yes, You.)
One of the favorite things about my job is that I’m focused on how to make our customers’ lives easier. So I’m particularly excited to share the news of Accela’s partnership with APPCityLife, the grand prize winner of our Civic App Challenge earlier this year. Why am I so excited? While it’s great to hear stories about government agencies using mobile apps to increase efficiencies and connect directly to their citizens, it’s still a daunting prospect. Creating a mobile app often requires a) someone who majored in Computer Science and has mastered multiple, complex programming languages and b) a great deal of time and money to get an app up and running. Not anymore. Government agencies across North America (and Accela customers, of course) can now create and manage their own mobile apps in record time — in days versus weeks or months — without having to write a single line of code. The C......
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National League of Cities Recap: Live from Nashville!

National League of Cities Recap: Live from Nashville!
Several of my Accela colleagues and I recently spent the better part of a week in Nashville, Tennessee, for the annual National League of Cities conference. Compliments to the staff at NLC and the Nashville Host Committee for throwing a fantastic conference, and to the City of Nashville for being such a welcoming place to spend a few days in early November. It was a busy conference for Accela, with numerous presentations to give, an expo booth to run, educational sessions to attend, perhaps a few honky tonk bars to check out… but most importantly, thousands of customers to speak with. Here’s a quick run-through of Accela’s high points for the week. Reinventing the Business of Government panel Maury Blackman, our President and CEO, joined Stonly Baptiste, co-founder of Urban.us, Peter Pirnejad, Palo Alto’s Development Services Director, and moderator Aimee Rawlins, Startup & Innovation Editor for CNN Money, to discuss the current......
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The Case for Modernizing the Alcohol and Marijuana Licensing Process

The Case for Modernizing the Alcohol and Marijuana Licensing Process
Licensing is an intricate process, and for good reason — it is incumbent on governments to protect their communities, and they need a lot of information to make an accurate assessment of regulated businesses. What they don’t need, though, is all the paper pushing and managing data across multiple systems. Having worked in government myself, I know that regulatory restrictions make change difficult. But while cumbersome methods may work okay for awhile, even a small shift in balance (new regulation, new responsibilities, new requirements) can quickly topple any tentative stability. Things work, until suddenly they don’t. For example, take a look at three real-world scenarios below: After wrestling with four different systems to manage applications, renewals, and citations across 67 different counties, the State of Alabama’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board began searching for a consolidated licensing regulatory system – but had limited funding and infrastructure to manage the new solution. When a r......
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Keeping Track of What Is Happening in My Community with Civic Insight: Creating an Amazon.com experience for government…and much more

Keeping Track of What Is Happening in My Community with Civic Insight: Creating an Amazon.com experience for government…and much more
Today, I am proud to announce that Accela has entered into a strategic partnership with Civic Insight. In this blog post, I will discuss three tangible benefits Accela customers and citizens will gain from bringing the Civic Insight team into Accela. 1. Understanding what is going on in my neighborhood At Accela, we take a lot of inspiration from our neighbors in the Bay Area that are disrupting the way we do things. As such, we have also closely followed the success of nextdoor.com, which makes it easy for citizens to be up to date on what’s going on in their communities. We believe Civic Insight, which gives residents a new level of transparency – from what type of commercial property is being developed four blocks over, to keeping track of home improvement projects their neighbors are working on – is the logical extension of the idea of localization and has simil......
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