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Harris: A selection of civic apps that aid Chicagoans

Developers build technology that helps residents understand local government

Melissa Harris

Chicago Confidential

July 7, 2013

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Chicago developers have built dozens of "civic" apps — websites and mobile downloads aimed at helping people better communicate with and understand local government. Here is a selection:

Foodborne Chicago Many people don't report food poisoning to the health department, slowing responses to outbreaks of food-borne illnesses. This service scans Twitter looking for anyone complaining of food poisoning and flags anything that appears to be legitimate and local. A real person reviews the flagged tweet and, if it checks out, sends a reply via Twitter asking them to report the poisoning to the health department via an online form. (Developers: Joe Olson, Cory Nissen, Scott Robbin, Raed Mansour, Daniel O'Neil)

Chicago Bike Guide This $1.99 download stores Chicago's bike map on your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad — so no Wi-Fi or mobile connection is needed to find bike paths, CTA stations and Divvy bike share locations. (Steven Vance)

Chicago Potholes This website displays all of the city's reported pothole patch requests and how long they've been waiting to be addressed. You can search for all service requests within a half-mile radius of an address. (Tom Kompare)

Spothole Do you see a pothole? If so, click "Spot a Pothole" and easily file a complaint from your mobile phone. The app then uses an algorithm to rank the potholes, allowing city crews to address the most critical ones in a given area. (Stefan Draht, Brett Schnacky)

Can I Bring My Bike on the Metra Right Now? Simple question. Simple answer. Plus additional information on bike parking around Metra stations. (Steven Vance, Francesco Villa)

Clear Streets A more muscular version of the city's Plow Tracker. This site reports which streets have been cleared of snow and includes a "plow leader board" of most active trucks. (Forest Gregg, Derek Eder and Juan-Pablo Velez)

IFindit Chicago An Android-only app that helps low-income and homeless people find medical clinics, food pantries, shelters, etc. (Elizabeth Park)

Mobile Illinois Judges Guide It's hard to discern which judges to vote for, so this simple site lists the judicial candidates recommended by the Chicago Council on Lawyers. (Dan Sinker)

Sweeparound.us Type in your address and find out when your street will be swept. Register for an email, text message or calendar alert — or all of the above — to remind yourself to move your car to avoid a ticket or tow. (Scott Robbin)

Was My Car Towed? Supply your license plate number and find out whether the city towed your car. (Scott Robbin)

mmharris@tribune.com

Twitter @chiconfidential