Sunday, April 27, 2014

My Time as Delaware's Geospatial Data Coordinator

Speaking about my work experience during the recent Lewes Candidates' Forum, I mentioned my time as "Geospatial Data Coordinator."  I've since been asked for a bit more information about what that means.

There's a class of database management tools known as Geographic Information Systems - GIS - that combines mapping (where things are) with databases (what things are) in a way that makes it easier to understand just what's going on.

If we map data about ground elevation, add historical information about where floods have occurred, overlay that with a map of the roads, then add the locations of all the people in the community with mobility issues, we can do a much more meaningful job of planning for evacuation should we get hit with a Sandy-sized coastal storm.

GIS, Geospatial Data and You a presentation to the Delaware Academy of Lifelong Learning (2010).

A Geospatial Data Coordinator works among all levels of government to coordinate the use and sharing of digital mapping data, information, and tools.

Back in 1998, when I joined the Office of State Planning Coordination, state agencies and local governments had started using GIS. But when they presented their data to the public, it often didn't match. It's hard to coordinate planning among different levels of government if they can't agree on the landscape.

I was hired to try to bring some order to that chaos. I created and led a group called the Delaware Geographic Data Committee (DGDC).  We created data standards and got the state and local governments to agree to work together and share their data. We found funds for, and managed, major statewide data-creation projects, including regular updates to the aerial photographs and elevation data at the heart of GIS systems.

I also served as GIS technical lead for the Office and led the efforts to create the maps that make up the heart of the State Strategies for Policies and Spending.  I was involved in three different iterations of the Strategies Maps.

In 2002, I led a team of DGDC members that created a web-based mapping system called the Data Mapping and Integration Laboratory (DataMIL) which was intended to present the collected GIS data of the state and local governments, online, and provide tools for people to point out errors and suggest improvements.  It was eventually overshadowed by Google Maps, (and later others) which did the same thing at a national level, and was retired last year.

DataMIL made a bit of a splash, though. It was featured in a national trade journal (PDF) and earned our team the 2003 John Wesley Powell Award from the USGS.  In 2005, I was given the first Delaware Geographic Community Service Award by the DGDC.

I also began to represent Delaware on a national GIS data coordination group called the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC).  I served on the Board of Directors of NSGIC and was the chair of the group's Communications Committee.  In 2008, I was given a NSGIC Outstanding Service Award.  After I moved to my present job, and resigned from NSGIC, they were kind enough to present me with their 2011 Lifetime Service Award (PDF).

I'm proud to say that the DGDC continues to serve the state.  My position has been filled by the able and dedicated Miriam Pomilio, long a colleague and friend. She's carried forward what I started and made great improvements.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Remarks from the Lewes Homeowners Association Candidates' Forum

This evening, I took part in a candidates' forum presented by the Lewes Homeowners Association.  It was held in the fellowship hall of the Lewes Presbyterian Church. Nice room. Good crowd.

I read my opening remarks. We had just four minutes, and I wanted to hit a number of points. I think I delivered them well.

Wave/Coast Press reporter Rachael Pacella tweeted a picture of the four speakers for the evening (Left to right: Mayor-elect Ted Becker, Rob Morgan, me, and Council-person Bonnie Osler). She caught us all clapping. Politely, of course.

After opening remarks, we took questions from the audience. Topics included:
  • Voter registration in Lewes
  • Parking issues
  • Stormwater problems
  • The new natural gas offerings in town
  • FEMA Flood Insurance rates
  • A plan to hire a planner for Lewes
  • The update of the Lewes Comprehensive Plan
  • The noise ordinance and outdoor speakers
  • Affordable housing
It was a good discussion. 

Letter to the Editor: Asking for Votes

The following is a letter to the editor I had published in the Cape Gazette today.

This is a time of change for the city of Lewes.  We’re thanking an outgoing mayor and welcoming a new one.  We’re adding a new member to City Council. We will soon add a city planner.  We face some serious challenges.  At this time of change, I’m asking the voters of Lewes to put me on City Council to help meet those challenges.

I’ve spent 15 years on the Lewes Planning Commission.  I’ve had an advisory role in crafting city policy. It’s time for me to step up to the next level and become a strong voice on Council guiding policy and connecting Lewes with its neighbors, with the county and the with the state.

I’ve lived in Lewes for 27 years. I raised my family here. I know this city. I’ve worked for 25 years for the state in roles that let me work with leaders of other Delaware cities, with county governments, and with the state agencies that are important to our future in Lewes.  I have the knowledge and experience to help integrate a new city planner into our community and into the larger community we must work with for the future of Lewes.

The issues and challenges facing Lewes are not just within our municipal boundaries. What happens around us will impact life in Lewes, for good and ill.  We must have a presence and a voice in Georgetown and in Dover. We must be a partner with the state and county, and with our neighboring cities and towns.

My long experience as a resident and volunteer in this town, and my professional experience in inter-agency and intergovernmental coordination at the state level, make me the right person to help us expand our partnerships.

Please vote for me on May 10.

Monday, April 14, 2014

My Elevator Pitch

Hello. My name is Mike Mahaffie. I'm running for Lewes City Council.

I’ve lived in Lewes for 27 years, more than half my life. This is my home. I want to serve this city and its people.

I’ve served on the planning commission since 1999, and as its chair since 2009. I’ve worked on the Comprehensive Plan, the Zoning Ordinance, the Subdivision Ordinance, and more. I know the land use issues of Lewes.

I’ve spent 25 years working in Delaware state government. I've worked with the leaders of State Planning, DelDOT, DNREC, Agriculture, and other agencies important to Lewes. I offer a comprehensive knowledge of how the state, its cities, and its counties work together.

I bring wide experience, local knowledge, and an analytical and curious mind. I practice kindness and respect for all opinions.

Please vote for for me in the Lewes City Council election on May 10.

Friday, April 4, 2014

If I Appear in a Leg Cast Tomorrow, I Think You'll Know Why

Tonight the Possum Point Players production of South Pacific opens for its gala two-weekend run in Georgetown.  I'm making my triumphant return to the Possum stage in a small role as a flunky to that show's main comic-relief character, Luther Billis.  I'm "The Professor."

I used to perform and work backstage for Possum shows in the late 80s and early 90s. I played small roles and did a bit of technical work. Karen played in orchestras for the musicals. We made many great friends.

We both took a break to raise the girls. But with the nest starting to empty out, we're dipping our toes back into the water.

Karen played in the Orchestra last year for Les Miserables.  I did a tiny walk-on a few years back as a favor to a friend who was directing.  For South Pacific, I'm back in the mix of a large pool of talented actors, singers and dancers.

If nothing else, I can project my voice and am comfortable on-stage.

So. If you are curious about how I look now that I'm "face-bald," grab some tickets and come see the show.