Blizzards to Beaches

I’ve always been an inquisitive person. I’ve been known to purposely shake things up. I wouldn’t be labeled as someone who follows the status quo. I often purposely put myself into uncomfortable situations to test my instincts and challenge my insecurities. (If we have a chance to meet at the CfA Summit, I can tell you about my solo trip to the remote island of Samoa with no plan or place to stay). But the most important thing to know about me is how much I love Hawai’i. The people, the culture, the history, the food, everything it is that makes up our island home.

I guess it was serendipitous that I was asked to join the City and County of Honolulu under CIO Gordon Bruce (who is anything but conventional himself) and Mayor Carlisle who from his own acceptance speech wanted a “lean, clean, smart city that’s looking toward the future.” We made it a personal goal to shake up government as much as we could to try and effect real change for the people of Hawai’i.

We applied for and were accepted to be a 2012 Code for America city. We had lofty ideas of what we wanted to do, but we were also very open to what the process naturally unfolded. I think you’ll see as we start releasing projects we had an amazing team and we covered a lot of ground in 11 months.

When I came to San Francisco for the 2011 CfA Summit, I was checking out all of the apps that were created during that year. My mind was racing with possibilities of what we could do for Honolulu. I was looking through the CfA GitHub account and one app really caught my eye, “Adopt-a-Hydrant.” I thought it was the greatest idea. Simple, yet genius to get folks to be more engaged in their community.

At that point, we were only six months removed from narrowly avoiding demolition by the Japan tsunami. Our emergency management division was facing challenges with people stealing the batteries out of the tsunami sirens. They were spread thin to continuously monitor and maintain the health of all the tsunami sirens on the island. Looking at Adopt-a-Hydrant, I thought, “This is perfect. We have GIS maps of all of our sirens. We could replicate this.”

I don’t remember exactly how, but I brought this up to Jen (CfA’s fearless leader) and the smile on her face lit up the room. She said something to the effect of “You get it, that’s what this is all about.” After a lot of typical government bureaucracy the CfA Honolulu team is finally launching Honolulu’s Adopt-a-Siren: I’ve already been asked if we can replicate this for storm drains!

Mahalo nui loa e Code for America.

Forest is the Deputy Director of Information Technology for the City and County of Honolulu.

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