Campaign Finance Data Challenge: accepted

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?

It seems to be customary with questionnaires to jump straight unto the questions without as much as a space for introducing one’s philosophy, if you will. I will then expound mine before addressing your requests and in such a way that these questions will be clear once the presentation is laid out beforehand.

A concern that I have is being caught between a rock of information, on the one hand, and on the other, the hard authority of staff. The modern person is at a loss as to what to do and which way to turn, but at the end of the day it is the council person who is held accountable before the electorate and neither Google nor staff.

So, then, what is the council person to do in this predicament, or any other person for that matter, in a similar situation of decision taking? I have given much thought in the last ten years having spent thereabouts of ten thousand hours reflecting on the matter at hand and putting into writing six e-books, all to be found at Amazon. The short answer I come up with is that ultimately all we have is very own our common sense. But, on second sailing, how much of common sense is actually our very own? That is, how much is it influenced by our milieu?

My view of things is that whatever is the case that common sense might turn out to be, it comes packaged in language, or with language; which is hard to tell them apart since they never occur separately. But shying away from the broader issue, let’s nail it down to what we have before us of how to respond to the challenge of an overabundance of information and an overzealous staff and only a reasonable time allotment to make a decision.

The conclusion that I arrive at in my works is that common sense has been corrupted and is feeding back negatively only making things worse. So how does one go about freeing the mind from the hold of the virus of modernity of having fallen prey to the machine takeover in our midst? And what might this fall of modernity be which has us such that we overlook and fail to see the obvious? More specifically in my last work entitled “Reconstitution, from brokenness to wholeness, by Triads” I roundup the argument from the previous works and make the claim that what is corrupting common sense, in plain English, is the “either-or” mindset.

Let me phrase my assertion recurring to pop psychology to layout an otherwise arid explanation. The left-brain has taken over dominating with the right-brain in recessive mode. The left-brain is the machine programming language of ones and zeroes. But aren’t we any different from programs? Yes, we most certainly are, and the difference can be found in the heartfelt notion of freedom. So, if this is the case, then our language must count with an additional factor or element in the mix. This human language I call the “both-and” mode of being.

Perhaps exemplifying will do more than further explaining. I found in my work “Triads (The pre-Socratic origins of dialogical science)” that Pythagoras discovered that the virtue of everything is that it is three-in-one, or a triad. Take the case of family, it is one, granted, but made of mom, dad, and child; or take us, people, we are one, but made of body, mind, and spirit. Taking it further by analogy if we’re individual selves, the city must be a collective self, and if this were the case, then corresponding to the body the city has neighborhoods, to the mind it has education, and to the spirit it has people.

Once we have made this jump we are well on our way to unlearning what has corrupted our common sense and better equipped to deal with what affronts council persons when in the performance of its charge. We can now contribute to the reconstitution of Austin by Triads.

I would encourage City Departments to comply with Open Government Resolution and place useful data on the open data portal on a timely basis by the triad’s approach of looking at the whole ball of wax. The council person needs to have reliable direct access to information without dependence on staff to interpret its meaning.

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

I would evaluate the department’s compliance with the Open Government Resolution by dialogue and consensus of the council persons. Yes, some sort of accountability would be appropriate.

⇒ 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 don’t know enough of administrative software, other than in the educational field, but what you are saying seems reasonable expectation so as to avoid the dilemma of chaos or submission.

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?

Verily my learning curve is steeply inclined and I must confess ignorance of the City’s having hired an Innovation Officer, Chief or otherwise. Its functions must be providing clarity and distinctness of information.

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 steps I would take to ensure website usefulness would be citizen input directly through their respective council person so as to take adequate measures. Consulting with open advocacy groups would be welcomed.

⇒ 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?

Precisely, I would support action to create an online issue citizen feedback/reporting system.

⇒ 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 do see the City’s responsibility regarding digital inclusion in making it user friendly. Perhaps periodically outreach to the underserved groups to make know the availability and provide training to meet such the goal of universal access to information.

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?

Put a deadline well before the next campaign so as to make the City Council candidate’s files now in pdf format be placed in a searchable, digital form.

⇒ 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 would try to comply with your fair request of posting my campaign receipts and expenditures in CSV data format within a reasonable period in the measure of my ability to be able to do so. Perhaps the timing is a bit off due in part to the risk of fallout of doing so would be out of step with the required City Clerk expectations, and making myself liable to a fine or worse situation. Recall that to those of us in the straights of first-time running there’s already plenty on our plate, not to mention the learning curve, but I applaud your suggestion anyway.

           Lastly, likewise as there was to room for an introduction, there’s also missing a space to conclude one’s thoughts. I will nonetheless provide it myself by saying that within the triad’s paradigm shift that information plays the role of body, and that equal importance ought to be given to the role of authority in the role of spirit, employing the analogy of people’s individual self with the collective self of the City. The question is what recommendations to make to the new council person, playing the role of the mind in this scheme?

           It is my heartfelt belief that too many trees hide the forest from view. That too much emphasis on information occludes the role that workplace staff politics plays in the mix, and this is the downside of overplaying the role of information, however necessary it may seem. We need to strike a balance between cold information and hot authority on the mind of the council person. That is, how the power establishment manages to effect influence on staff in the driving of events, be it lobbying or under any other name.

           The council person responds and is accountable to the citizen district electorate, but to whom is staff accountable to? This needs to be investigated in the measure that we’re assuming that the in-place business model for city governance it the best match. But have we even critically done the inquiry, to begin with. This takes us further from the object of Open Data Austin, but this needs be addressed as per the triad’s paradigm of looking at things holistically.