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Methods

CGISC uses a variety of strategies, including:

Demographic Analysis

Demographic analysis examines population characteristics and how they change. Understanding local demography - age patterns, income, housing, and racial and ethnic composition - is the foundation on which our community studies are based. Our use and knowledge of local, state and federal data (such as Census 2000) is key to building these analyses.

Contextual Investigation

Context is provided by analysis of official minutes of public meetings for city councils, state agency committees, county commissions, etc., as well as community impact studies and similar documents. Published news articles and interviews with public officials provide background and can answer questions.

Housing and Economic Analysis

Our expertise in land policies and values means that we can use public records to analyze the impact of government policies, actions and programs on home and land values. Both Census data and local property tax files provide detailed property information, including home values.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

GIS is a computer-based mapping method capable of identifying latent spatial relationships in geo-coded data. That is, the maps combine geo-coded information of different types and on different subjects and put them into one map to discover how they relate to one another. The resulting "big picture" is usually enlightening. Currently we are mapping patterns of government services of zoning, highway routing, and water and sewer distribution in relationship to race of those affected by these location decisions.

Data for GIS analysis come from several public sources. Demographic data are from Census 2000, as are the boundaries for the underlying census geographic units used to map the data. Cities, counties, state agencies and regional Councils of Government provide spatial data on town boundaries, ETJ boundaries, critical watershed areas, zoning designations, and location of sewer and water lines. Property tax files show lot lines and locations of houses. State departments of transportation provide existing and proposed highway route information.

GIS maps are valuable for several reasons:

  1. As maps describe specific places, they engage people far more than can mere words or tables of numbers. People can find their own home on a map of their community.
  2. Maps come from official public data, so they are "just the facts."
  3. Maps can illustrate situations that are not readily-apparent. They provide a more complete view of a community because they include invisible boundaries such as city limits, land-use, infrastructure and zoning. For example, maps can show disparities in city services; thus, they can provide insight into existing community investment and priorities, answering the questions: Who is participating? and Who is excluded from the full life and benefits of the municipality? It is critical to get down to this foundation of reality in order to understand the nature of community problems, including public health, loss of land value, and lack of particpation in the democratic process. When governments use their regulatory powers of annexation, extra- territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) or zoning to build a larger tax base at the expense of building all segments of the community, concerns over voting rights and accountability are raised.
  4. While our maps are based on public data, the information conveyed is not otherwise accessible to many people because of its technical nature and format. We are able to use this data as a springboard to train citizens in how to access and use public data. An appreciation of public data also increases understanding of how local government create goeals, take actions and keep records of these actions. Many of these activites have been cloaked - if not in secrecy, than in a language and format that keeps people from knowing what is happening and how decisions are made. As more and more data becomes available in digital format, we are able to use it to enhance civic engagement and increase accountability.