1. Do you support the adoption of a comprehensive Open Government Directive by the City of Austin? The Open Government Directive would outline a consistent approach to open data, technology-enabled citizen engagement, open decision-making algorithms, and civic application development and be based on existing documents such as model legislation developed by the Sunlight Foundation, Code for America, and Civic Commons.
Yes. I am supportive of the goals of the Open Government Directive. As a Council Member, I have made it a top priority to have city decisions made in public view with transparency and adequate time for public review and engagement. It is my fundamental belief that the more perspectives we have reviewing a proposal, the better outcomes we will have for our community.
My official city calendar has been public since 2008, the first year I took office. It is a direct copy printed from Outlook, not a recreation. Additionally, I was the first Council Member to publish all of the resolutions and ordinances I’ve sponsored in an easy-to-read and searchable format.
As chair of the Emerging Technology and Telecommunications Committee, I directed city staff to create the open and transparent online contract catalogue that provides information on all of the city’s contracts with real-time information on what’s been purchased and how much money has been spent. I believe this will the city to avoid inefficiencies in the city’s contracting process by reducing duplication by departments and increase competition by making the information more available to Austin’s local businesses.
I also sponsored a resolution to expand the transparency of Austin’s process for considering economic development agreements. The new process makes available all relevant information concerning the proposal online and includes a timeline that allows for an opportunity for public comment prior to any possible action by the City Council.
2. Do you support the inclusion of the municipal Open Government Directive’s goals as performance benchmarks for each City of Austin department?
Yes. I believe the city would be well served by including a performance benchmarks for city departments and am supportive of working with staff and stakeholders in developing these measures.
Yes. Part of policy development is looking at best practices from cities across the country, which helps us understand the work that has already been done and avoid “recreating the wheel”. Prior to being on council, I was professionally involved in software development and understand that this is a principle that could be applied to technology and software development by the city, too. If cities can share information and involve what are essentially ‘pro-bono’ efforts by the development community, we can move the starting point forward, leverage community resources, and ultimately better serve the community and save time and money.
4. Do you support the existence of an Information Authority modeled after the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office to provide oversight of government data as a public good?
Yes. I would like to explore the idea further, but I do support a model that increases the sharing of information with the community. Having previous professional experience in regulatory compliance of records, I understand the importance of the technicalities of management of information and successfully proposed inclusion of records management as an element of the city’s audit service plan for 2010/2011. In addition, I believe this model might be useful with sharing information across city departments. For example, the Water Utility needs to be sharing its infrastructure projections with the Planning Department to ensure we are accounting for the true costs of growth and can help better shape our land use policies, and vice versa.
5. Do you support studying whether Austin should join cities such as Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., in pledging support for a publicly-accessible open-standard protocol for 311 services, such as the currently proposed Open311 API specification?
Yes. I am open to moving towards a more efficient mechanism for accepting input on 311 requests and a more transparent way of tracking citizen requests and complaints. I can see this as a method to get us there. However, I do want to make sure that we have the privacy policies in place to protect individuals from their information being released without their permission.
6. Do you support the creation of an application development contest that leverages public data and APIs?
Yes. Austin is a leader in software development and technology, and I could see this as a perfect way to display Austin’s talent and help foster collaborative innovation.
7. How will you and/or your staff use social media to promote citizen engagement and improved service delivery?
I am the only City Council Member to actively use an open-feed Twitter account. I have found it to be an effective way to promote events that are happening in the community and receive immediate feedback from residents on various issues. I also have a Facebook page and am continuing to expand my use of it to reach residents.
I co-sponsored a resolution directing the city manager to work with the boards and commissions on developing a policy regarding use of social media sites and online collaborative tools, including wikis and discussion boards. Social media has become an important way for citizens to engage, communicate, and collaborate with governmental entities. Because Austin's Boards and Commissions play a critical role in that citizen engagement, I believe it is important to have policies in place to offer these bodies the tools needed to communicate with the general public.