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?
I think this is a matter of priority. As a candidate and a citizen, my biggest priority is customer service. For many people, Austin’s website [austintexas.gov] and the open data portal are the first “face” they see when making inquiries to the City. This means we need to make our electronic information as customer and user friendly as possible. Since the City Manager and Chief Innovation Officer have authority over our public face, I will work closely with them to make sure that posting relevant and timely information to our website is a priority.
⇒ 2. How would you evaluate departments' compliance with the Open Government Resolution? Would you support a resolution to create a quarterly report card?
I am a big believer in metrics and performance measures. In order to succeed, we need to determine what it is we are trying to accomplish. We must have defined goals overall for the City, but also for each department. These goals need to prioritize customer service and cannot be made without input from the general public. Once goals have been established, we need to conduct regular periodic evaluations to ensure we are living up to our objectives. A quarterly report card can be a useful tool in this regard and is an option I would consider.
⇒ 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, I would support such a resolution. As a City we need to create policies and procedures dictating how data, including those generated from any new software purchases, will be published and made available publically. This process needs to be standardized across all departments so that data is available to our customers/citizens in a consistent, timely and logical manner. However, it does no good to pass a resolution and create policy without accountability and enforcement. Each department would need training and be held accountable using various metrics that are assessed at regular periodic intervals.
⇒ 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 am very disappointed in the city’s transparency, and this should be the priority. One should be able to drill down on the budget and se where money going- very specifically. For example, how much the transportation department spent on supplies- One shouldn’t be wondering what falls under the Austin Chamber of Commerce sections
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?
For too long the City Council and City management have neglected customer service. Fortunately, a positive step has been made towards improving this situation with the hiring of a new Chief Innovation Officer who is responsible for the City’s online presence. We already have a resolution in place (Open Government Resolution – Dec 2011) directing the City Manager to work with the community and provide recommendations for open data, mobile applications and the like. This seems to me like an enforcement issue/difference in priority. I would work closely with the City Manager and Chief Innovation Officer to make sure citizen concerns and requests are heard and addressed. Obviously the City should accommodate its citizens as much as possible. If we cannot provide what the community wants, at a minimum we need to have a record of the request, a documented justification for why it was not feasible and to communicate this back to our citizens so that they know the City has at least responded.
⇒ 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, absolutely. Any business would want to know when its customers have issues with its website or any other aspect of their business. If a business neglects its customers, it will soon find itself obsolete with its dissatisfied and frustrated customers taking their business elsewhere. The same is true of the City’s website and all City services. Our citizens are our customers. If they have a problem with our online services or any other service, we need to find out about it and address it. Otherwise our citizens and businesses may consider relocating to other more attractive jurisdictions.
⇒ 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?
The City should provide free access to the internet to low income building- all low income residences should have a business center with a computer room and access to technology
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 feel campaign finance transparency is very important. The current system used by the City of Austin whereby campaign finance reports, which can be either hand written or typed, are scanned in PDF form and posted online technically complies with the State’s electronic format law, but not with the spirit. This format is not user friendly for the general public. I would task the City Clerk’s office with posting financial documents in a searchable electronic format before the next election and coordinate with the City Auditor to ensure compliance with the resolution passed in 2012. Software is already available for free to candidates from the Texas Ethics Commission that will allow them to publish campaign finance reports in electronic format. The City Clerk can ensure compliance from candidates by simply not accepting financial reports in any other format. Passing a resolution means nothing if no one is held accountable. The City Clerk must be given the authority and responsibility to comply and be held accountable to the City Council and the City Manager.
⇒ 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 will post it on my website, Erinforcitycouncil.com.