Social Media

Surfing New Wave Open Government

 Surfing New Wave Open Government

Symposium panelist says local efforts show
potential but Austin not open government leader

by Mark Henricks
© The Austin Bulldog 2015
Posted Thursday April 23, 2015 10:44am

New technology and new ideas promise to make government more open than ever, perhaps even someday replacing politicians with direct decision-making by citizens, according to panelists in a discussion of innovation in open government held this month at Austin City Hall. At the same time attendees were warned of the risk of disenfranchising those who lack access to technology. And, while panelists lauded Austin’s image as a center of technology, the city government’s reputation for openness and transparency was said to be unremarkable.

The session took place April 9, 2015, as part of the City of Austin’s Open Government Symposium. This is the second city-sponsored symposium since 2012, when all City of Austin elected officials agreed to deferred prosecution after an Austin Bulldog investigation into their open meetings violations.

Kerry O’Connor Kerry O'Connor, the city’s first chief innovation officer, moderated the panel. She was joined by Mary Beth Goodman, a senior fellow with the Washington, D.C, think tank, Center for American Progress, and Nathaniel Heller, managing director of the Results for Development Institute, a Washington, D.C. economic development research group.

Mary Beth GoodmanCities like Austin are on the front line in the effort to make government more transparent, according to Goodman, who was formerly director for international economic affairs on the White House national security staff. “The more we've gotten into the process, the more we've learned that citizens want to engage first and foremost at the city level,” Goodman said.

Nathaniel HellerHeller, much of whose work has dealt with less-developed countries around the world, cited crowdsourcing as an example of openness that is well-suited for city government. “This is being experimented with nationally, but it's working better at the local level,” he said. Examples of using crowdsourcing in government include holding challenges and contests to get citizens to contribute their ideas about how to solve problems delivering needed city services.

O’Connor, who took over the city innovation office in 2014 after working for the U.S. State Department, said Austin has employed crowdsourcing-type tools with mixed success. “It is a nascent movement and takes a little practice to get it right,” she said. City efforts to encourage citizen contributions include CodeNEXT, an initiative to create a new land development code addressing affordability and other issues. The innovation office partnered with three volunteer working groups to generate recommendations for the program, but it still a work in progress.

Openness impedes efficiency?

Social Media’s Impact on Open Government

Social Media’s Impact on Open Government

Few government organizations have dealt with
how Facebook, Twitter use affects compliance

Part 2 of a 3-Part Series

by Ken Martin
© 2013 The Austin Bulldog
Posted Tuesday, April 23, 2013 2:00am

“A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
— James Madison (1751-1836), Bill of Rights author and fourth president of the United States

By far the most lively panel discussion covered by The Austin Bulldog during the City of Austin’s Open Government Symposium held March 17 dealt with how social media and trends are affecting governmental organizations and how those organizations comply with open government laws. A standing room crowd witnessed the discussion in the Board and Commission meeting room at City Hall.

Jason KingA panel moderated by Jason King, senior attorney and deputy ethics advisor in The University of Texas System’s Office of General Counsel, included the government official in charge of the Texas Attorney General’s Open Records Division and an attorney whose firm represents and advises numerous small Texas cities on matters of open government.

Alan BojorquezAttorney Alan Bojorquez of the Austin-based Bojorquez Law Firm PLLC serves as attorney for 22 general law and home-rule municipalities across the state. He is the author of the Texas Municipal Law and Procedure Manual (5th Edition).

Bojorquez said, “Social media technology is always changing and the law can’t keep up with technology.”

“Public officials are trying to conduct business but don’t know how to do it. The answer should be simple, but it’s not. It’s gray, and has been for many years.”

No posts to display