Sen. James Eldridge Goes to Washington

By Jean Trounstine

Senator James Eldridge (D-Acton) was the only lawmaker in the U.S. who answered the presidential challenge to be an “Open Government and Civic Hacking” champion of change. Late last week, he and others were recognized at the White House in a day-long event with presenters from all across the country who submitted projects using computer software and publicly available data to solve problems in our states, cities, towns or neighborhoods.  Photo courtesy bostomagazine.com

Eldridge proposed the Help4OK project to aid management during times of crisis. Assisted by computer programmers and local “civic hackers,” he proposed an easy-to-use website to connect people who need help with people who can give help. Based off an idea to rally around Oklahoma tornado victims, the website is planned to be a reusable resource to those in need of food, shelter, and medical supplies during natural disasters and other emergencies. “In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings and Hurricane Sandy, I am eager to see the outcome of the project and how it can be utilized to help victims during future disasters,” Eldridge said on his blog.

In a phone interview, Eldridge mentioned how he was inspired by the projects he saw in Washington. “After the Mother’s Day homicides in New Orleans,” said Eldridge, “one civic hacker came up with the idea to match clergy and professional mediators with gang leaders and/or known people with criminal justice history”—all who voluntarily submitted their names. This could be groundbreaking for the city. Eldridge pointed out that if an act of violence happened or was about to happen, a community activist could then immediately be on hand to de-escalate the situation.

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(First published on Boston Magazine and used here by permission)