Campaign Finance Data Challenge: declined

Open Data

Many of these issues, such as the Open Data Portal and Open Government Resolution, are discussed in our Open Government Briefing Guide.

⇒ 1. How will you encourage City departments to comply with the Open Government Resolution and place useful data on the open data portal on a timely basis?

The City will engage in Strategic Planning with a 25-year planning horizon. The Strategic Plan will contain all policies and strategies (set by the Council) for the upcoming year as well as a roadmap for achieving all goals over the next 25 years. Performance measures will be included at the beginning of each year so the public can gauge the performance of their city at the end of each year. Data portal access for each department will be defined. A Content & Brand Services Office, independent of the Communications Office, will be created to assist each department in meeting their web pages goals for the current year. The use of infographics for visualizing and communicating data sets will be standardized and encouraged.

⇒ 2. How would you evaluate departments' compliance with the Open Government Resolution? Would you support a resolution to create a quarterly report card?

Departmental standards would be set in the citywide Strategic Plan for the current year. The City Auditor would measure the success of each department on a quarterly basis and offer direction on coming into compliance where necessary.

⇒ 3. Would you support a resolution to require that any software or software services purchased by the City must be accompanied by an open data plan that indicates how public data managed by that system will be made available to the public?

Yes, I would support open data plans as part of any software procurement but not necessarily a requirement to be solved by the vendor (may be the responsibility of each department and the CTM Department.)

Innovation Office

⇒ 4. This past March, the City hired its first Chief Innovation Officer. What are the specific functions and initiatives you would like to see out of this office to advance the City's open government and open data efforts?

Functions and initiatives of the Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) would be included in the citywide Strategic Plan as a planning component. In fact, each functional area of city government would have a section in the Plan. Innovation is sorely lacking at the city level. The CIO should promote and champion innovation throughout the city bureaucracy, especially in the areas of Business Process Re-engineering and the use of new technologies and methodologies. Easily accessible open government and open data should be a stated goal in the Strategic Plan and part of the CIO’s mission.

Website and Online Services

⇒ 5. What steps would you take to help ensure the City of Austin website provides the tools and information that citizens and community groups want?

Our city website is deficient in many ways including poor: speed, consistency, information architecture, navigation, interface, usability, search, customer experience, links, brand management, etc. The criteria for website success must be defined and departmental support provided. As previously mentioned, we should create a Content & Brand Services Office (offering professional support to each department) independent of the Communications Office, as well as a separate Internet Services Office within CTM that works with the Content & Brand Services Office. The Chief Innovation Officer and the City Auditor will be responsible for developing and maintaining compliance with city goals for those public tools and information required by the Strategic Plan. Those goals should include web best practices consistent with a “best managed city.”

⇒ 6. Would you support action to create an online issue feedback/reporting system, where a citizen could report an issue with the City's website and other online properties, and track city response to that issue?

Yes, I would support such a reporting and tracking system. However, I would expand the functionality you are talking about to include a greater role of 311, especially on the City website, along with access to currently hidden intranet functions and data. For example, AMANDA data is available to the public regarding permitting but should be expanded for Code Compliance cases and complaints as well. The interfaces for all data sets should be standardized. Citizen engagement should be enhanced with better model of moderated forums and topics, and the current SpeakUp Austin removed, to foster better communications between citizens and staff as well as between each other. Each department should also be required to post a calendar of errors they make daily and the resolutions of those errors (along with the pertinent tracking). This would ensure a structural way to meet quality and performance standards.

⇒ 7. There are strong benefits to providing city information and services online. Many residents, however, experience barriers to access. (See discussion of "Digital Inclusion" in our Open Government Briefing Guide.) What do you see as the City's responsibility regarding digital inclusion, and what steps would you take to address these concerns?

I would negotiate with Google Fiber to develop our own publicly-owned fiber utility (Austin Fiber) managed and maintained by Austin Energy. This would serve as a model for other cities which is probably consistent with Google’s goal of increasing Internet access speeds (fiber is not really part of their business model). Every address served by Austin Energy would have access to fiber. Any service provider (such as AT&T, Time Warner, Grande Communications, etc.) could provide services in a competitive manner over the City’s fiber (so the City is not a telecommunications company). Competition would drive down costs and provide more revenue for the City. Libraries should expand their public access to the Internet. 311 access should also be offered via paper and mail. Carrying channel 6 (ATXN) should become a service requirement for all service providers. The City should offer training and equipment to the public, especially for low-income residents.

Open Data Exercise: Campaign Finance Filings

The City of Austin currently posts candidate and office holder financial statements as scanned facsimiles (PDF format) of the filed, attested documents. In 2012, the City Council approved a resolution to post these filings in a searchable, digital form.

⇒ 8. What would you do to ensure this project is completed before the next municipal election?

Solicit a plan from the City Clerk, including the costs of implementation.

⇒ 9. Will you publicly post your campaign receipts and expenditures (as reported to the City on form C/OH) online, in CSV spreadsheet data format, within 30 days of filing a report with the Austin City Clerk? Where will you post it?

No, since the current campaign finance laws do not ensure a level playing field and my resources are too tight at this time, even if you gave me a 90-day window. However, if CSV format were required, I would comply.