GeoCarta Has Moved

Dec 21, 2005

Connecticut Cities Differ On Providing GIS Data

While roughly eight miles separate Stamford, Connecticut from New Canaan, their attitudes about providing Geographic Information System (GIS) data to the public are world's apart. The Greenwich Time reports today on the case of Stephen Whitaker and his quest to obtain such GIS data.

Using the state's Freedom of Information Act, Mr. Whitaker asked the two cities for all digital records from their GIS databases. The data includes aerial photos and detailed maps of the cities. Mayor Dannel Malloy says the City of Stamford intends to comply with the request, stating, "It's part of the public record." City officials did say that they intended to ask their public safety officials if there was anything that should be withheld from Mr. Whitaker, first.

But it's a different story over at New Canaan where First Selectman Judy Neville expressed reservations about releasing of such data, citing security concerns.

This is a familiar road for Mr. Whitaker. Back in 2001, he made a similar request to the Town of Greenwich, Connecticut. In a world recently shocked by 9/11, that request precipitated a contentious debate over access to public records. Back in June, the state Supreme Court finally settled the matter, ruling that officials had to grant access to the city''s images. Greenwich officials provided the data to Mr. Whitaker, but removed maps of manholes, fire hydrants and sewer lines.

It's unclear why New Canaan officials feel the supreme court ruling isn't binding on them, but Ms. Neville said she intended to investigate the issue with other city employees. "I am aware of what happened in Greenwich, but I think Greenwich's system is farther along than ours," the first selectman said.

In the meantime, Mr. Whitaker should be busy. He has filed requests with several other towns. He has appealed Greenwich's decision to edit the data they did provide him to the state Freedom of Information Commission. And he is contesting Greenwich's attempts to copyright the material.