Noel Hidalgo: Why I’m Coding for America and New York

We are living on the horizon of a bright tomorrow. Transparency, efficiency, and participation are echoing through the halls of government and in the streets of New York. In 2009, when a small group of organizers and technologists walked through the doors of the State House, we etched these words into the walls. Four years later, transparency, efficiency, and participation have been etched across the world as the mantra of public / private collaboration.

In my childhood, service and adventure filled my dreams. Both sides of my Grandparents dedicated their lives to their families and community. My maternal grandparents were educators. My paternal grandfather was a warrior & my paternal grandmother was a caretaker. I grew up the son of two US Air Force officers. They intermingled their stories with optimism and adventure. Their inspiration and support gave me the fertile grounds to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout and dedicate my High School career to community service.

After several years attempting to make a buck in the roaring 1990s, I found myself under 25, and unemployed for the second time. In 2003, I saw our nation slip into two wars and further into a an unsustainable economy. It was then that I said enough was enough, and I volunteered for John Kerry’s Presidential campaign. On 1 Aug 2004, I moved to NYC and vowed to make a better city. In my NYC first year, I discovered a budding vine of code named Drupal. This vine, was fresh, global, idealistic, and fertilized with civic roots. It wrapped every one of my digital ideals into one easily deployed software package.

Through the communities that supported drupal, I discovered a peer network rooted in openness, freedom, civics, & do it ourselves. This led me to start NYC’s Drupal User Group, organize a series of unconferences, pull together NYC’s first Coworking location, circumnavigate the world while exploring the other end of the internet, drive a NYC Taxi Cab, help organize Twitter VoteReport (a precursor to Foursquare with election protection tools), organize NYC’s open government community, reinvent public information portals at, and help pass the most progressive open data legislation any U.S. city has ever seen, aka NYC Local Law 11 of 2012.

Now, I join Code for America as the NYC Program Manager. Headquartered at Blue Ridge Foundations’ Cobble Hill, Brooklyn office, I get to be with some of NYC’s brightest civic innovators – DataKindTurboVoteWomensLaw.orgControlShift, and iMentor.

What does this mean for New York?

In 2013, we will root our civic technology community in sustainable soil. For in 2014, a new municipal administration will take over the Mayor’s Office, the Council’s Speaker’s chair, the Public Advocate’s gavel, and the Comptroller’s calculator. For our city to bridge into the next administration, we must have strong roots.

Luckily, New York City’s civic technology & open government community does not grow alone. Thanks to a lattice of experienced brothers and sisters, New York State and City is blessed with a suite of forward thinking transparency and open government laws, statutes, policies, and programs.

Our next 12 months are an unprecedented opportunity to innovate. Over the next 12 months, we must actively engage NYC’s administration, and maximize our opportunity with one of the most creative municipal governments this Nation has ever seen.

Together, we will explore the City’s data sets and generate new insights.
Together, we will build efficient ways for us to report our issues to the City.
Together, we will engage in mutual aid and never forget that through unity we are the strongest.

If you are ready to stand with the hundreds of fellow New Yorkers who have already committed to coding for New York, I ask you to make a resolution and join us…

1. Join Open NY Forum, this forum will be used for CfA Brigade related announcements.
2. Schedule a meeting with me and discuss your civic technology issues, problems, or opportunities via oHours.
3. Or contact me at or @noneck on twitter.

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