Twitter: @SherylCole1

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?

In the spirit of the resolution and open government, I believe that the progress of both the data portal and department efforts would benefit from greater public attention and awareness. I do not currently sit on the Emerging Technology and Telecommunications Committee, but believe that standing updates to that group and the full council would help give the appropriate attention to actions or roadblocks.

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

The administrative directive provides a good basis by which to initially consider performance, including time commitments for publishing. I don’t see those measures translated into department-level performance metrics and I believe that a regular report card would help give greater clarity to our shared responsibility in providing this information.

⇒ 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?

I’m open to this recommendation, but would also want to discuss it in greater detail with the city’s CTM staff to walk through specific scenarios or examples. In general, I support the open government principles and recognize that it’s through some of these software purchases or upgrades that some of that openness and public access will occur – I’m just simply not aware of the totality of software purchases that the city engages in or the options available to be able to endorse a blanket requirement at this time.

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?

I’m very excited to have Kerry on board and look forward to her filling out her team and establishing the innovation office’s presence within all that the city does. While I’ve co-sponsored resolutions that were directed at engaging her on specific internal process issues like purchasing, I think that one of the great opportunities for her is the open data portal and our web-services more generally. Developing a digital service standard and design manual for the city would begin to change the current way we create and populate websites across multiple functions and make sure that they are responsive to users of that data.

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?

Looking at other successful government web presences for examples, I think that there is plenty of room to grow for Austin, especially given its reputation as a tech friendly community. Using the organizational models and service standards already developed as a starting point would be a great way to begin to address the responsiveness of our web-presence to the needs of users.

⇒ 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. In fact this was some of the initial feedback that my staff had to the new 311 app as well – that this should have been included. While there is a suggestion box portion to our open data portal, that functionality needs to be more broadly adopted and the tracking of the issue would help build greater confidence and community buy in.

⇒ 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 believe strongly in digital inclusion and was proud to co-sponsor a resolution in May that added it to Imagine Austin as a part of our vision for this community. I believe that we have several opportunities to work with new and expanding internet providers locally to make sure that the entire community is served by this utility and not just select customers. Moreover, I have supported expanded funding for programs like Austin Free Net that provides skills training and access to low-income individuals. Beyond these efforts to deliver digital access to people, effectively providing public data and services on line is then key to successfully breaking down the digital divide.

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?

I’m disappointed that it hasn’t already been implemented. This project should definitely be included in any open government report card to highlight progress or lack thereof. If outside resources are needed to develop this functionality in compliance with necessary regulations, I would commit to supporting that in the next budget to make sure it is available for the 2016 municipal elections.

⇒ 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?

I support open data and transparency.  Each campaign has different levels of resources, not just financial resources, but staffing levels and staff availability.  Compiling information for City campaign reports is already a highly time intensive process.  Providing data beyond those requirements is a large commitment, and one that not every campaign has the resources to undertake.