2012 was a big year in digital for the City of Chicago. Here are some of the highlights.




This year kicked off with the launch of Chicago’s first-ever Plow Tracker as part of ChicagoShovels.org. Or as one Chicagoan said: “It’s like Pacman, but with plows.” Chicagoans are now able to see a live feed from GPS devices to keep track of snow plows during a storm. We believe this is also the first time the #PlowTracker hashtag became a thing on Twitter.



Hundreds of Chicagoans took a break from tracking snow plows to join Mayor Emanuel’s livestreamed #AskChicago Town Hall on education. This round of #AskChicago was hosted by students at Westinghouse College Prep and the Mayor spent an hour answering the most popular questions submitted by Chicagoans. One person asked: “How do you propose to deal with the high performing neighborhood schools that are overcrowded, for example Abraham Lincoln Elementary?  Does your plan include both short and long term solutions?  The goal should be to expand on the success of these schools!” Here’s the Mayor’s answer.


Stem Schools


Strong tech skills are in high demand, however employers are finding that too few job-seekers have them. Mayor Emanuel, Chicago Public Schools and City Colleges of Chicago announced a partnership with five leading companies to create Early College STEM Schools that will prepare students for careers in tech. See CPS’s Storify of the announcement. 


Chicago’s History on Facebook


  • Mayor Boone was the great nephew of Daniel Boone.
  • Mayor Woodworth was friends with Abe Lincoln.
  • Chicago is still the largest city in the United States to have had a female Mayor.

#StuffYouCanLearnFromOurNewFacebookPage. When Facebook allowed pages to add historical content, we jumped on the opportunity to use our official page as a place where residents can see not only what we’re doing, but where we’ve been as a city. You can scroll back all the way back to 1837 and meet William Butler Ogden, the first Mayor of Chicago.



Everyone knows that social media was invented to share pictures of your food…and our friends over at the Dept of Public Health couldn’t be more thrilled. They launched a program called “Rate Your Plate” to raise awareness around healthy eating. Folks posted photos of their meals and public health experts provided nutritional feedback.


Local School Council


It started with a tweet.

@GovInTrenches and @sethlavin were right. It was really challenging for voters to figure out who was running for Local School Council positions. Using existing data, they helped Chicago Public Schools built and launched a “Who’s Running for my Local School Council?” app for the first time.” Here’s more on how it went down.




Many of you have seen Mayor Emanuel riding the CTA around the City on the way into City Hall or en route to events. This month’s #RahmSpotting goes to @bmeyerso




We Chicagoans know how hot our summers get and it’s imperative that the city is prepared for extreme heat. This year, we added online communications to our campaign to raise awareness around heat-related issues. This post was one of the most ever shared pictures from the Mayor’s Office.


Tree Public Service Announcement

Our friends at the Chicago Park District took to social media to educate more Chicagoans about how seemingly innocuous actions have disastrous impacts on our parks. This images reached thousands of Chicagoans and hopefully helped to save our trees along the way.






We’re using social media to try and connect to Chicagoans where ever they are…and that includes huddled under a tent during a rainstorm at Lollapalooza. When we saw the storms coming in, we banded together to make sure that outreach via Twitter was in concert with more traditional communication channels. Rock on.

Dude, Where’s Your School?


The Chicago Public Schools ramped up their digital efforts to get ready for back-to-school. Working with a civic developer, they launched their school locator tool to help parents locate CPS locations for their children.


And to help spread the word about heading back to school, CPS lit up the skyline and the Twitterverse with the #CPSB2S campaign.

Action Shot


And finally, how cool is this kid?




September was a big month for social and digital media. We launched Open311, which opened up the City’s 3-1-1 system to all sorts of innovation. Now you can track your service request like a UPS package, submit service requests via smart phone and build applications using the API.

Grocery List


One of the most talked-about pictures from the Mayor’s Office Facebook was the Mayor calling a guy’s wife to be sure he picked up everything at the store.

Wiring our City

PageLines- Broadband1.png

Social media works so much better when the Internets are superfast. In addition to opening up free Wi-FI in Millennium Park, Mayor Emanuel launched the Chicago Broadband Challenge, a unique initiative to secure Chicago’s position as one of the digital capitals of the country. The challenge is threefold: 1) build world-class broadband infrastructure for the city, 2) extend broadband service into underserved areas; and 3) provide free Wi-Fi access in public spaces throughout Chicago. Check it out here: www.cityofchicago.org/broadband




Every park, meet EveryBlock. With 580 parks across the City and Chicagoans looking for details on programs in their neigborhoods, the Chicago Park District started working with EveryBlock to offer specific news out to the communities about volunteer stewardship workdays and events with a hyper-local community focus.

Crowdsourcing the Bike Share


To keep the wheels turning on Chicago’s bike plan, Chicago Department of Transportation built a site where the public can recommend spots across the city where they’d like to see bike sharing locations. Check it out: http://share.chicagobikes.org/

Wheels Down in Chicago


When the President came home to Chicago, our social media brought you along to greet him. This ended up being one of the most popular pics of the year on Mayor’s Office social sites and Instagram.


Flu Map

Flu Map

Flu season in Chicago is nothing to sneeze at, so to keep Chicagoans healthy the Dept. of Public Health teamed up with civic-minded developer Tom Kompare to better organize information about more than 82 places to get flu shots around the city. This is another great example of how Chicagoans can benefit when the City opens up data and developers hack for the greater good.


This ended up being another top shared photo on our social networks.


Early Learning Portal

There was a time not too long ago when information on early learning programs for kids were as scattered as Cheerios in the back of a minivan. We’re working to change that with the Early Learning Portal, an online resource that puts details on 770+ early education programs on one simple map that allows parents to run side-by-side comparisons. You can even text your zipcode to (773) 886-1819 to get localized info on your phone. So while we’re helping parents be engaged in their kids’ education, the Cheerios situation is still all on you.



And let’s end the year like we started it… with Plow Tracker and Adopt-a-Sidewalk. This time around Plow Tracker is optimized for mobile devices and Adopt-a-Sidewalk was taken over by civic developers who are working to add even more features to keep us connected!

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Happy New Year Chicago!

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