Frank Bracco's Blog

Blog Post
Posted July 19, 2016

In June 2014 the City of Houston and CenterPoint agreed to switch traditional streetlights in the City of Houston to LED lights. Two years have passed since the agreement was signed, and Houstonians have begun to notice the new LED streetlights. Taxpayers are also seeing savings in the General Fund thanks to this conversion effort.

With approximately half of the streetlights replaced in the last two years, our team was curious what the savings impact had been to date. By our estimates, nearly $900,000 has been saved through the bill period ending June 7, 2016. While the agreement was signed in June 2014, the conversion did not start until January 2015 after all the needed approvals were gathered. The first LED lights appeared on the City’s light bill in March 2015. You can check out the savings over time in the chart below.

How do savings work? The City does not own the streetlights and does not incur the capital cost of replacing the lightbulbs; instead, this duty falls to CenterPoint. The City does, however, pay for most of the operational costs associated with street lighting. The money to pay the electricity bill for streetlights ultimately comes from the General Fund – which is the City’s main governmental fund and is funded by taxpayer dollars.

When traditional streetlights are switched out for LED lightbulbs the number of kilowatts per hour (KWH) consumed decreases substantially. Not pictured on the chart below, the City has also saved approximately 19 million KWHs in the 16 months since the first LED streetlights appeared on our bill. This decrease in KWHs leads to a decrease in the electricity bill for the City. When the conversion is fully completed, the City estimates it will save between $2.5 million to $3.0 million a year compared to traditional lightbulbs (depending upon the price of energy).

LED Savings as of June 07, 2016

Filed Under: LED, streetlights, cost savings
Blog Post
Posted May 9, 2016

This week marks the release of Mayor Turner’s proposed Annual Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2017. To assist end-users in their analysis of the proposed budget, the City provides detailed budgetary information in our online Budget Bootcamp tool at and also on the interim Open Data Portal at Both of these resources have been updated to include information for this upcoming year's proposed budget. The official proposed budget and past adopted budgets can also be found online at

Blog Post
Posted March 1, 2016

Each month our community partner, Sketch City, hosts a Civic Hack Night. These events help the City connect with the local technology community in order to increase cooperation and create innovative solutions to pressing problems. Civic Hack Night works because it allows for City employees to interact with members of the technology community in a friendly, informal environment in order to describe problems, broaden perspectives, and introduce new technology solutions.

Sometimes the collaborative environment provided by Civic Hack Night works so well that City employees are able to help other City employees overcome obstacles and advance projects forward. In fact, a couple months ago City of Houston IT extraordinaire Jim Cole and I experienced just that.

Jim and I started talked while chomping down on pizza at the November Civic Hack Night. Jim mentioned he recently sat in a meeting on a records retention project that had been happening "on-again-off-again" for about a year. The project team, consisting of stakeholders from multiple departments, was attempting to categorize employees by their job code in order to determine how long to retain e-mails. The City retains all e-mails for a default of two years and there are other e-mails we tag by keywords in order to retain longer. To be extra safe, the project team wanted a methodology based on job code to change the default retention period from two years to four years for certain employees. The project team needed:

  • An automated way to pull employees from our enterprise resource planning (ERP) system;
  • A way to tag the employees by their job code; and,
  • A method to send that stratified list to the Outlook server.

Over the course of the hour, Jim and I developed a go-forward. I showed Jim that we had a reporting environment that received the employee roster regularly from our ERP system, so we could use it instead of starting from scratch. Jim already had the list of job codes we needed to tag, so we added this as a look-up table to our reporting environment; we also enhanced the list based on our subject area knowledge. Finally, Jim knew he could use PowerShell to add the users we tagged to a Windows Active Directory group that could then be used by the Outlook server and our e-mail retention software to handle the retention periods.

The next day, we presented our plan. After a couple hours of work, we had the solution in place. We also developed a data visualization in Tableau to help our records management staff see how employees are being tagged. You can click on the thumbnail below to open a screenshot of the dashboard we developed.

Civic Hack Nights are for city employees too, and Jim and I learned it firsthand. The collaborative environment provided works when City employees are present to interact and share ideas. I would encourage any employee on the fence about attending a Civic Hack Night to come out and see what it's all about. You can learn more about Hack Night by visiting

Blog Post
Posted January 5, 2016

This summer, I had the opportunity to meet local developer and .Net extraordinaire David M. Wilson at a Civic Hack Night. David showed several of us a civic innovation project he developed after the first City of Houston Hackathon in 2013. The project is a real-time web app that shows active City of Houston fire incidents based on a test web service available on the Interim Open Data Portal. The web app also provides users the ability to search historical events, including the humorously titled "Dumpster on Fire" incident (which occurs with surprising frequency).

During our conversation, David told us he was still improving the application in his spare time and would be interested in integrating in police active incidents. The City currently has a tabular view of active HPD vehicle incidents available online but the data isn't available for historical analysis nor is it geographic based. We all agreed it would be a great idea to add these HPD incidents to the web service and we went to work trying to find who maintained the test web service. The City of Houston is relatively inexperienced with web services (outside of the built-in functionality ESRI provides for their mapping services), but with a little trial and error our IT team was able to make a quick change to the code. Within a couple minutes of the change, David's application successfully received its first HPD incidents without incident (pun intended).

You can check out David's project at and you can find his code on GitHub. The project is a great example of what's possible when local governments make their data freely available as web services, and it also serves as a great instructional tool for other developers looking to integrate active incidents into their apps. If you have feedback on the active incidents web service or suggestions for how the City can better use web services we want to hear from you, so comment below!

Blog Post
Posted September 24, 2015

Want an easy way to find your Council Members that doesn’t involve a bunch of clicks, is mobile friendly, and provides the information in an efficient manner? If so, look no further than the City’s newly redesigned Who Is My Council Member webpage. This new web app replaces a SilverLight web app that used to be linked on the page. Let us know what you think about the improved functionality by commenting on this blog post.

You may be asking, why are we blogging about this? The web page is an internal research and development project for the City that uses an open data set’s API end-point and uses some example code various civic innovation projects that were developed at this year's City of Houston Hackathon. All the code for the page is open source and available on Github at

Departments: City Council


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