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Hammer Award Ceremony

Community Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Demonstration Teams

Remarks by:
Pamela Johnson / Deputy Director / National Partnership for Reinventing Government

At the
ESRI Users' Conference
San Diego, California
June 26, 2000

Thank you. It's a great pleasure to be here in San Diego and to meet so many pioneers in the development of GIS!

My mentor and teacher Margaret Mead observed that there is no limit to what a small group of committed people can accomplish - - Jack, you and your wife Laura are a testimony to that . . . I can only imagine what this roomful of 10,000 committed people from around the world can do!

What an army for change!

My purpose today is a simple one - to celebrate new partnerships between people like you who create this new mapping technology -- and people in our local, state and federal government who use it to build a better America.

I also want to celebrate a wonderful day - - a day that started with the announcement of the mapping of the human genome. Then the announcement of the geography network - - followed by a non-stop day of evidence that the great Yogi Berra wasn't that off-base when he said: "the future just ain't what it used to be!"

At the National Partnership for Reinventing Government, we're working overtime to create the future - - to build a government that works better, costs less and gets results that the American people want. And an electronic government - e-government - - that uses the best of technology to serve our citizens.

Already more than 30 million Americans file their taxes on line. Men and women in the Navy can take courses, get a degree, send flowers to their spouses and e-mails to their kids - - even when they are at sea.

The resources of the National Library of Medicine and the National Archives are available to every student.

And citizens can see the weather conditions on-line - - live from the Great Smokies and Michigan Avenue in Chicago. As well as get on-line or e-mail ozone alerts.

That just ain't what government used to be.

And we have only begun creating the government of the future. Now, before I go on with my remarks, I have to admit something. I am not a geographer. I am, however, married to one. And that - plus my work for Vice President Gore and NPR - have convinced me that geography holds an important key to creating the government of the future.

You would probably all agree. You are, after all, 21st century mapmakers. Like all great explorers, you are leading the way through unknown terrain -- not mountains or deserts - or even a distant planet - but a landscape different from any we have ever known.

This new frontier, you see, is composed of information - oceans of unexplored data -- miles of disparate facts - all waiting to be captured, organized and used to better the human condition.

Vice President Gore said it best - - "We have an unparalleled opportunity to turn a flood of raw data into understandable information about our society and our planet . . . if we are successful, it will have broad societal and commercial benefits in areas such as education, decision-making, for a sustainable future, land-use planning, agricultural and crisis management."

The teams we're here to recognize today are doing precisely that - - working as partners to turn a flood of data from federal, state and local sources into information that is making a difference in their communities.

Now I happen to believe that they are creating a kind of geographic backbone for the government of the future - - for an electronic government. You could even call it "g-government" - - using the best of technology to serve the same customers we want to serve at NPR - the taxpaying public.

And by doing so they are enabling their communities, As Jack Dangermond said, "integrating the bits of information and seeing the whole."

The six community project demonstration teams used this technology to re-map their communities. Their success and the army of digital change agents here today suggest that if we work as partners it truly is possible to re-map our nation for the information age.

We can see the benefits. These teams have uncovered the "hidden geographies" of their communities and have reshaped the future for thousands of living Americans - and for countless more who will come after us.

They have demonstrated - in concrete ways - that spatial and information mapping allows us to:

  • save lives that might otherwise be lost to violent crime;
  • protect communities that might otherwise be ravaged by natural disasters and
  • promote growth and still preserve our nation's beautiful farmland and forests.

In communities across America, teams have captured, integrated and displayed layers of data in ways that allow public officials to make smart choices instead of best guesses.

Even more important, GIS has opened doors, and invited citizens back into the room where decisions are made to take part in the decisions that affect them and their community.

The results? GIS is helping people build the kind of future and the kind of communities they want and need.

  • In Gallatin County, Montana - where growth has exceeded 25 percent in recent years - ranchers and environmentalists came together and - yes -- agreed on the first master plan for growth in the Montana!
  • Dane County, Wisconsin citizens are working together to preserve their rolling farmlands while supporting smart growth. And with maps on the web, they can send their comments on-line about county plans.
  • In the Tijuana River watershed here in beautiful San Diego County, flash floods are common. American and Mexican researchers and planners have identified high risk areas and modernized the flood maps for Goat Canyon.
  • The Tillamook County team used GIS to pinpoint neighborhoods and communities most vulnerable to flooding - and decided to elevate 55 houses and 14 buildings at risk. When a flood did hit in Tillamook last Thanksgiving, County Commissioner Sue Cameron estimated that good, GIS-inspired planning had spared them more than $50 million in damages.
  • In Pennsylvania's Upper Susquehanna-Lackawanna watershed, Congress held a field hearing for an anthracite bond initiative - using GIS maps that revealed the mine-scarred landscapes in gritty detail.
  • And in the Baltimore-Washington area, 13 police departments can now map crime and share information to fight crime across jurisdictions.

And in each of these communities, Federal and local, public and private partners worked together to build the infrastructure - - the framework data, the metadata - - so that each community would have an enduring Information infrastructure and would contribute their part to the National Spatial Data Infrastructure.

And I am proud to say that Federal "champions" worked hard with each of these communities to deliver federal Information to the people who paid for it - - the American taxpayers.

And ESRI worked with them each step of the way.

On behalf of the Vice President, I want to present Jack Dangermond, ESRI, the federal partners and representatives of each of the six community teams here today with an award that has become synonymous with government reinvention.

The Hammer Award - as we call it - is not the most expensive award you will ever receive - a regular $6 hammer, a little ribbon, and a note card, all in an aluminum frame. But it may be the most valuable award anyone can receive.

If you saw the famous David Letterman episode where Vice President Gore used a "government hammer" - purchased for $400 to smash an ashtray - then you know how it all began.

The hammer became a common-sense symbol of common-sense government. The hammers each of our teams are receiving today symbolize the common-sense work they have done - breaking down the all too familiar barrier that says "but we've always done it this way" and replacing it with "let's make this happen!"

To each of you the Hammer Award will probably mean something different. But I like to think each Hammer Award is as unique as the team that receives it . . .

So let me ask representatives from the teams to come forward.

  • Our first community demonstration team is from Gallatin, Montana: Lannette Windemaker from Gallatin and Paul Dressler from the US Geological Survey.
  • Ben Niemann from the University of Wisconsin and Chris Clarke, from the US Department of Agriculture are representing Dane, County, Wisconsin. And Ben, I understand that you are part of Phil Lewis' dynasty!
  • Representing the bi-national Tijuana Watershed team: Richard Wright from San Diego State and Nina Garfield who is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  • Representing the Tillamook, Oregon team - - Commissioner Sue Cameron and John Mahoney from the Department of the Interior.
  • From the Susquehana-Lackawana team: Dale Bruns from Wilkes University and Dave Catlin from US EPA.
  • And representing the Baltimore, Md. Team, Alex Mudd from the Department of Justice.
It is with great pleasure that I would also like to present a Hammer Award to Jack Dangermond representing the ESRI team that has worked with each of the communities.

Before I leave, let me tell you all again how much I have enjoyed being here and how much your work means to the Vice President.

Five, 10, 20, even 35 years from now, you will be able to tell your family and your neighbors, your children and grandchildren, or your friends' children and grandchildren that you were here at an historic time in the life of our country. That you were in on the creation of E-government and indeed of "g-government." That you helped create our future and transform our government.

Wear your "hammer" pins proudly. You are in excellent company. Share what you have learned. And encourage others to trust their vision.

Thank you.

And thank everyone here today for your work mapping the way to the 21st century.

Thank you all.

Related Resources

Geographic Information Systems


Access America E-Gov E-Zine Partners
Chief Information Officers Council
National Partnership for Reinventing Government
Federal Communicators Network