Campaign Finance Data Challenge: accepted
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?
Much of this responsibility falls on the City Manager. I would seek to legislate in clearly communicated means so that the intent of the legislation is clearly followed.
⇒ 2. How would you evaluate departments' compliance with the Open Government Resolution? Would you support a resolution to create a quarterly report card?
It sounds like a fantastic idea. Forgive me, though, if I ask to see it in writing, in its entirety, so that I know it is not something either too easily exploited or favorable to one faction or another. In a sense, I am ensuring that there be transparency in our attempt to enforce transparency.
⇒ 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 can think of no situation where public data should be withheld from easy public access. A plan that indicates how every system will accomplish this task sounds wonderful. I would want to be certain though, that there would be no chance of personal/private data that belongs to individuals of our city could possibly be exploited through this policy. So, while I am in favor of the spirit of this idea, the devil is in the details and would need to feel comfortable that it is used safely in terms of individual privacy.
⇒ 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?
The description of the Chief Innovation Officer reads like it came straight out of a thesaurus of beaurcratic buzz words. The idea sounds wonderful: A person tasked to connect all the new and promising technologies in a transparent manner and give the public an opportunity to participate in the actions of their city government. But I need to hear what this person has accomplished to justify her six figure salary (double that of the future city council members) during an affordability crisis. Then when I am confident that this mission is being accomplished, I would look into what fail safes exist that keep that office transparent as well. Lastly, and more towards your question, I would seek a system that allows more people to seamlessly participate and speak in City Council meetings in a more efficient manner so that actual voting doesn't happen at 3 am when no one is still watching. There needs to be a better system so that the public can participate at reasonable hours while ensuring the council still votes and legislates in clear view.
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?
The site needs to be compartmentalized more. We need better distinction between information intended for potential candidates, information for voters, general news, real time city notices, the different offices, "about Council Member _______," etc. I would want to spread it out and walk the user through the steps that determine who they are and what kind of information they seek.
⇒ 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?
ABSOLUTELY! Why stop at the city's website and other online properties? What about power outages, broken traffic lights, and flooding. We could even include an app.
⇒ 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 should think Google will help with half of this issue. While I would love to ensure every one had access to these services, the greater concern of my district is affordability and I do not see a reasonable need to justify subsidizing access any further. My best suggestion is to seek out charitable organizations that will help those in need rebuild their lives. We could offer devices that engage those that need the assistance and have also shown the desire to use the opportunity.
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 finally brings us as close as we have ever been to fair campaign finance filings. I intend to make this a priority and expect that my supporters will take full use of this opportunity to vet their candidates throughout the city.
⇒ 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 have no intention to keep anything secret. My only concern is the means and resources it would take to transfer such a document. Since, you are willing to assist me in this effort I will gladly work with you to ensure it is done. My largest concern with campaign finance reporting is the disadvantage it places on smaller budget, lesser known candidates. Since, you are will to help post it then that will reduce that disadvantage and I want to support this effort.