Twitter: @ValeraForAustin

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?

I will encourage City departments to comply with the Open Government resolution by ensuring each department does a self assessment with respect to meeting the specific directives in the City Managers Open Government Directive. I will also direct my staff to periodically to review the performance of various city departments with respect to meeting those directives.

Additionally, it will be imperative to ensure that, from a technical perspective, the city’s information technology is conducive to meeting those directives.  This requires the use of efficient information processing, document processing and document management. Specifically, we should create documents and collecting information that makes that data easy to disseminate through web platforms.

It’s also important to recognize District 3 faces many challenges and barriers - language, education, and access to technology.  I believe that some of these challenges can be solved by our citizens, if we empower their innovation efforts with open and available data.

Maintaining, evolving, and growing the data portal, however, is no small feat and requires close collaboration and effective communication among the city’s leaders.  I will first focus on ensuring that our departments understand the value of the portal, then I will work with them to formulate a plan to contribute to the portal. As someone with a computer science background who works extensively with information technology I will enable action and drive results.

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

It is important that the lines of communication to our community should always clear, as information equals empowerment. When it comes to compliance, I believe it is important to understand the unique needs of all groups, then work together as city council to develop a comprehensive evaluation plan.  The best way forward is a collaborative effort.

I would first start with a self-assessment for each department that included goals for the next quarter. Then, I would follow up that with a performance evaluation and assessment if whether those goals were met. From there, I would support a quarterly report card with the possibility of expanding to a 6-month report card if a city department demonstrated consistently meeting the Open Government goals.

⇒ 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?

First, I believe it is important to communicate the value that open data has to our citizens and the city.  All who make decisions that impact the city should consider how/if their decisions impact how data is managed or served.  Specific software purchases may range from those that present significant data implications and those that do not. For the former, I do believe that collaboration on an open data plan is the optimal choice.

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 expect the CIO office to offer thought leadership and drive innovation.  Technology and software have the unique ability to drive rapid change and provide opportunities to those where none existed before. The CIO should also ensure that technology provides greater access and efficiency, rather than providing barriers to those goals. As someone who works in a technology field, I understand how technology can be a true force multiplier with respect to efficiency and productivity.

Access to technology is one of the biggest challenges for my neighbors in District 3.  Economic conditions, lack of training, nor access to hardware should not bar access to crucial information that can potentially improve their lives.  I believe that the CIO office can create tools and empower groups to make a big difference in this area.

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?

To provide actionable and valuable feedback, I believe it is crucial to first research how the City website is effective and where there are opportunities for improvement.  Then we could move forward to finding a better way to provide these tools and information to the community. I also think that the website should be optimized for all the potential access mechanism, whether it be different web browsers or smart devices.

⇒ 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?

To reiterate my earlier point, I think it is important to evaluate our current feedback/reporting systems and identify gaps and opportunities.  I do know that we have provided the community with a way to access our city by dialing “311,” offering links to surveys they can take online and public forums. However, each of these systems can be improved. I would want to learn more about what kind of reporting mechanism that already exists and how we could improve that.

⇒ 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?

As I mentioned in question #4, digital inclusion is a particularly important issue for District 3 and many districts throughout Austin. I think it is important to understand from a geographic perspective where digital inclusion is lacking, then work to identify solutions. Identifying these gaps in inclusion requires a detailed knowledge of the district and the community. With that information we can ensure access points (such as libraries) are well supported throughout the District.

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?

This is a great example of where the city can improve and yes I would support this initiative. The city should have a portal for campaign finance filings as well as allowing for the scanning of PDFs for anyone who cannot access the portal. It is a simple solution that makes dissemination of information that much easier.

⇒ 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?

Given time constraints and the current reporting mechanisms it seems technically not feasible to meet the 30-day limit. The 30-day window also is insufficient to mitigate competitive disadvantage, as the information will be primarily used by competing campaigns.