Twitter: @poolforaustin

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?

Government works best when it is open, transparent, and accountable to the people. The City has made a statement that it values open, participatory government with the Open Government Resolution and creation of the data portal. Furthermore, the Resolution by Council was followed with an open government directive from city management. It is still in the early stages of being implemented, allowing significant refinement with the somewhat new Innovation Officer and Data Architect that have been in place since March of this year. The directive provides the framework for the discipline needed to create a systematic approach to open data and open government under the policies adopted in the resolution.

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

Yes, I would support a resolution that directs the City Manager to request quarterly reports on open government issues from city departments. Again, using the Council Subcommittee on Emerging Technology and Telecommunications as a forum, I would request that city departments present their quarterly reports at a regular meeting (OR work with TARA to collect these reports and have TARA present the reports).

Some of the metrics I would want city departments to evaluate their compliance would include amount and type of information uploaded; frequency of updates – is the information current? – and accuracy; ease of access; search hits; public feedback on usability of site; gaps between what is on the site versus what people are looking for.

I would also seek input and advice from interested parties, such as Open Austin, for ideas and feedback on the kinds of metrics we seek to determine the strength and success of city departments’ actions to meet the requirements of the Open Government Resolution.

⇒ 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! Such a resolution would help us create an ecosystem of citizen developers who could use their expertise and development skill to help the City create meaningful solutions.

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 that the results of her work would be measured against the goals published in the resolution recommending creation of the position: develop and implement a strategic plan and an implementation plan, assess performance of CoA’s Open Government Initiative; ensuring that City departments posting information to the City’s website and maintaining it; ensuring the site used by the community and that they are engaged in the work.

The CIO is still new in her position, so I would expect that she will continue to meet the initial goals. Ultimately, I want to see the CIO engaging our citizens in technology and empowering them to shape the direction the City takes on its digital path.

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 City’s ability to communicate is tightly tied to whether and how easy it is to find information and navigate the website. The City’s search engine can be frustrating; finding information or resources is not intuitive.

Serving on the Council Subcommittee on Emerging Technology and Telecommunications would allow me to work directly with the CIO’s office to determine best practices for ensuring the COA website is truly a digital tool for all Austin residents. More funding may be needed to achieve this goal, and I would lead the effort to maintain or increase further funding as needed.

I would also welcome an opportunity to talk about this with the community, local businesses, and members of Open Austin to find ways to improve the COA website.

⇒ 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?

An emphatic YES! This goes back to what I was saying about empowering Austinites to become citizen developers for our city! I think it would be extremely exciting to let local folks lend a hand at creating a mobile app, for example, that would be used to report and track city services. It would be a great opportunity to partner with area schools. And, since not everyone has a smart phone, I would ensure that the COA website contains the same app feature.

⇒ 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?

Digital inclusion is a public benefit and the further along we go in the digital age the deeper and wider its importance has become. To that end, Council adopted a resolution directing staff to work with the Community Technology and Telecommunications Commission and the Austin community to draft a "Digital Inclusion Strategic Plan" which should be presented to Council soon and hopefully adopted soon after. This resolution should give us a roadmap to achieve goals of adoption and access for digital inclusion throughout our community which is a critical element of promoting a community of equity where all have the opportunity to thrive. Also, Council adopted a resolution asking staff to work with the Commission to draft updates to Imagine Austin to address digital inclusion in our comprehensive plan. This will be an important step to ensure that digital inclusion is at the foundation of our goals as a city.

Having said that, the City must be adaptable to changes and support expansion of Internet services throughout the City. As chair of the Telecommunications Commission, I supported CoA outreach to underserved communities with programs like GTOPS. After leaving the commission, I continued to participate in the outreach as a judge in the GTOPS process. The city is making headway in providing access to the community – one specific example is the free internet access available at and in the vicinity of city offices and the public libraries and on buses. Travis County has free access, as well.

More specifically, I would lead an effort to create stronger partnerships between the City and the nonprofits that provide digital inclusion services and/or training. Currently, GTOPS is a seed funding, matching funds grant. Let’s keep that aspect, and expand it to include larger grants for more established nonprofits that seek to close the digital divide. This would allow more meaningful amounts to be awarded to the nonprofits with the strongest programs and best track records.

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 would lead the effort on Council to set deadlines, ensure sufficient resources are available for the project, and monitor progress to completion. It will take a majority of Council to ensure this project is completed by the next city election. The City Clerk plans to do a pilot using past candidates’ data for test data in the first part of 2015 with the ultimate goal to have it in place for the next municipal election.

⇒ 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?

Yes. I would publish it in the forum that is recommended by this group on a page maintained by TEC or, more likely for Council candidates, maintained by the City Clerk’s office.