The Day After the Election

November 9, 2016

The results of this election are a wakeup call for America. Now, I have to admit that anything is possible. Maybe, hopefully, the misogyny, bigotry, and fear that we saw from Trump during the election won’t be what we see from his presidency.

This election was about gender, class, race, personal liberty, and fear. I thought we were quickly progressing on some of those issues. I’m coming to recognize that my community significantly influences my perception.

In Colorado we recently supported civil unions for same-sex couples; we allowed medical marijuana and the legalized it all together; this year we passed the End-of-Life-Options Act (an adaptation of assisted suicide); home prices have soared (though so has rent); and the job market is very strong. I see these things as progress. Many people do not. Last night, we learned that many people may not even be considering such things–they have much bigger problems, whether real or imagined.

Around the country, there is a strong, different sentiment among a significant portion of the people. We need to recognize that equality for many groups of our population has a long way to go. Those of us who see the good things in this country need to share them with others. We must also be vigilant and ready to stand up for the freedoms that we believe in, for ALL PEOPLE. Is Donald Trump the person to lead us down this road? His campaign rhetoric is dubious.


CNN analyst Van Jones put it perfectly: “People have talked about a miracle ― I’m hearing about a nightmare,” Jones said on CNN. “It’s hard to be a parent tonight for a lot of us. You tell your kids, ‘Don’t be a bully.’ You tell your kids, ‘Don’t be a bigot.’ You tell your kids, ‘Do your homework and be prepared.’ Then you have this outcome, and you have people putting children to bed tonight and they’re afraid of breakfast.

“They’re afraid of, ‘How do I explain this to my children?’ I have Muslim friends who are texting me tonight saying, ‘Should I leave the country?’ I have families of immigrants that are terrified tonight.”

Tonight, I read Words are Not for Hurting to my daughter. That seemed apropos.

A lot has changed for me. I acted and spoke much more like Trump until my mid-20s. I had to have a deep spiritual experience, a complete psychic change, to move past those prejudices. I am not proud of some of the things I did and said, but I’ve learned from them and grown from them. I hope others can too.

Nonetheless, I am sad for my wife and daughters (our first is a 19 months old and our second is due in January). Maybe she wouldn’t have understood, but I was anxious to tell my daughter about the first female President in U.S. history and that anything is possible for my daughter’s future. Of course, anything is still possible.

I’m also concerned about the potential dismantling of programs that are trying to bring our nation and world ahead, such as expanding broadband access and improving climate change.

To lesser extent, I’m concerned about regressing human rights: freedom of speech; access to education, equal pay and rights for women; access to healthcare; LGBTQ equality; etc.

Why to a lesser extent? Those things are much bigger than one person. And some of them, life affordable education, have been imploding long before Trump came on the political scene. I also continue to have faith that we will move forward. Every time humankind has been pushed to the brink of disaster, we have adapted and improved.

Now is the time for deep faith: in the Constitution; in our family, friends, and neighbors; and in whatever version of God we trust. Change is up to each one of us. Each of us needs to be the love, truth, support, and progress that we want to see in the world.

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After the Election…What I think

November 8, 2012

The 2012 election is over. President Obama won re-election. Democrats kept a majority in the Senate and picked up some seats in the House. (In Colorado, Democrats now hold the governorship, the state Senate, and the state House!) Obama crushed the electoral map, even without Florida being final. And he took the popular vote. In fact, Democratic candidates have won the popular vote in 5 of the past 6 elections.

Now it’s time to get to work.

But, first, I can’t hold back sharing some of my opinions about the election, politics, the parties, and our government.

The direction of our society: To me, this election represents a clear signal of people’s desires for how they want to live and build a society.

The election involved taxes, debt, war, foreign policy, and other bureaucratic matters. But this election was really about emotions, community, and freedom.

The Republican Party, as it exists today, is not the party of Roosevelt or Lincoln or even Reagan. Today’s Republican Party is the party of fear—fear of terrorism, fear of losing money, fear of choice, fear of things that are different. People living in fear are not free.

Today’s Republican Party is the party of exclusion—don’t look the same, don’t talk the same, don’t think the same, don’t pray the same—the Republicans don’t want you.

It’s beyond intolerance and selfishness. Little emotions motivate like fear motivates.

Democrats, still imperfect, offer choice, support, community, and liberty—liberty in the form our country was founded on.

Obama’s campaign was impressive. He and his team got people to knock on doors, make phone calls, and focus on the right neighborhoods to get the votes they needed. Democrats are just doing these things much better than Republicans.

And, the Obama team sent a lot of emails. I’d be willing to bet I got close to 1,000 emails. All that Internet campaigning has been a trademark of Obama, but it really owes its roots to Howard Dean and his 2003 campaign.

Dean’s over-celebration may have ended his own presidential hopes, but he set the stage for a new strategy of campaigning using the Web. Obama’s team picked up the strategy, crafted it, and used it to support two winning campaigns. Every since FDR, that’s the best a presidential campaign can do.

By the way, Obama won Massachusetts.

Money in politics: This election season included a lot of money. According to the Sunlight Foundation, “No matter what part of it you look at, campaign spending for this election has been higher than ever before. It has been estimated that the first post-Citizens United election has brought more than $6 billion in spending.”

It’s not the amount of money that’s a problem. The problem is who is spending it and how it’s being spent.

The overshadowed story: Elizabeth Warren knocked off Scott Brown to pick up a Senate seat from Massachusetts. She is a true consumer and citizen supporter. Here are some of her comments that ring true to me. It represents the kind of honesty, humility, and realism I support.

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there – good for you! But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea – God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.


The economy:
By almost every measure, the economy is improving. Here are a couple examples:

The stock market is up. The Dow, Nasdaq, and S&P 500 have all had significant gains since Obama took office.
Here’s the Dow’s performance:

Unemployment is dropping: It’s been up and down, but it’s currently about the same as when Obama took office.

The elites: There are just as many rich Democrats as rich Republicans. People living in the wealthiest areas of the country voted for Obama.
Here are the 100 wealthiest counties in the US:

And here’s the Electoral map:

People living in the most affluent counties in the country, other than in Texas and a few in Virginia, voted for Obama.

Moving on: We get four more years of a President who believes in working together, not leaving any one behind, and moving every one forward. We also get at least two more years of a divided Congress. We all want action from our elected officials, but we, as a country, are not frustrated enough to make it happen. Apathy and disillusionment are still holding us back. The 2012 voter turnout isn’t final yet, but it’s not looking good, even worse than 2008.

Luckily we live in the country with the most changeable system of government in the world with the most opportunities for citizens to take the reins. We just need to step up and do it.


A Local Business Database and App – Good Intentions, but Off the Mark

March 4, 2012

Colorado Senator Morgan Carroll introduced legislation to create a business database.  The legislation would direct the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) to create the database.   Local businesses would voluntarily be able to register, provide information, and a pay a fee each year.  The bill also requires OEDIT to create a mobile app for accessing the data.

Supporting local businesses and encouraging economic development are admirable, necessary goals.  Sen. Carroll deserves support for pushing those efforts.  But, the methods to achieve those goals in this legislation have significant shortcomings.

First, the state already has this information.  The Department of Revenue, the Department of Labor and Employment, and the Secretary of State’s office, already collect most of this data and could publish it online. 

Second, the private sector is already doing this (e.g., Yelp and Google Places).

Third, charging businesses to register and provide duplicative information is unfair and unnecessary.

Fourth, and finally, if the agencies just made the data available via an API or even by download from their websites, the private sector could make use of the data with less effort and little cost to government.

A more effective approach would be to direct state agencies to make their data available. For example, check out Data.Oregon.Gov.  At no additional charge, reporting requirement, or effort to businesses, Oregon has made business information available to the public and to the private sector.  Oregon’s data platform makes all of the things Sen. Carroll is promoting possible without extra costs.

Colorado’s proposal will limit innovation by restricting the data to a state agency that does not have the expertise or resources to create and maintain apps and other economic tools.  David Eaves, an open government expert, recently wrote about the economic potential of open data and helped plainly describe the benefits of government releasing more data to the public.

There are experts who can do this sort of thing.  Government doesn’t have to.  Government just needs to provide the tools and resources for the private sector and individuals to do what they need to do.


Cook County Develops Open Government

April 25, 2011

Open government efforts have been rapidly developing in cities, counties, state government agencies, and federal government agencies.  I hesitate to call the developing efforts prolific, but more and more efforts are popping up.  A recent article on Govloop, “How Many Open Government Projects Are There?”, helped illustrate the development of the open government movement across the country.

In January, I wrote about the development of the Model Local Open Government Directive.  The model was a product of CityCamp Colorado and a collaborative effort of CityCamp, Colorado Smart Communities, Code for America, the Sunlight Foundation, OpenPlans.  The model provided cities, counties, and other governments with a framework they could adapt to implement open government principles—transparency, participation, and collaboration.  Since that announcement, the open government movement has continued to grow.

The latest update comes in the form of the Open Cook County Plan from Cook County, Illinois.  The Open Cook County Plan, which is based at least in part on the Model Local Open Government Directive, “is aimed at making county government data and information publicly available so residents can more effectively understand, interact with and improve government.”   

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said, “I know that the historic lack of transparency and accountability has eroded the legitimacy of Cook County government in many residents’ eyes. Quite simply, a government that is transparent and accountable to its residents is a more effective government.”  Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey went on to say, “This initiative will allow for unprecedented interaction, allowing residents access and use of county data to better understand how county government is operating and to make recommendations on how to improve and use government and services.”

The Cook County government has clearly recognized the benefits to its citizens and itself that following open government principles will provide.  Citizen satisfaction and government efficiency are just a couple of the benefits of open government.  The opportunities for cost savings and public and private sector innovation are also abundant.

I applaud Cook County’s effort to become a leader in the open government movement, along with the federal government, San Francisco, Manor, TX, Portland, Vancouver, and many other cities, counties, and other governments.  I am also very proud to see the work of several professionals and fellow volunteers being recognized and adapted.    

With additional promotion coming at the Sunlight Foundation’s upcoming Transparency Camp and the Gov 2.0a Conference, I expect knowledge and support of the main open government principles—transparency, participation, and collaboration—and the Open Government Initiative to grow.


Local Open Government Directive: Building Transparency, Participation, and Collaboration

January 24, 2011

Just one year ago, Kevin Curry started the CityCamp movement to bring together local government officials, government employees, private sector technology experts, journalists, and citizens to share perspectives and insights about the cities in which they live and to develop practices for making their city governments more transparent, participatory, collaborative, and accountable.

In December 2010, I was proud to work with Kevin, Brian Gryth, Sean Hudson, Michele Hovet, Alissa Black, and Nicole Aro to organize CityCamp Colorado.  During the camp, Kevin, Brian, Alissa, and I began developing a model Local Open Government Directive that cities and counties can use to promote transparency, participation, and collaboration in their governments.  We modified, tailored, and improved the U.S. Open Government Directive for local government and, after the camp, we expanded the drafting process to about 30 more experts and supporters of the open government movement.

The Local Open Government Directive provides specific guidance for a city, county, or state government to develop information and data sharing practices, enhance and expand citizen participation opportunities, and collaborate with government employees, other government agencies, private sector experts, and the public.

The opportunities for transparency, participation, and collaboration described in the directive are becoming increasingly possible and efficient thanks to Internet technology and people’s desire to reclaim our government.  We will no longer accept the information government holds about us, our schools, our businesses, etc. being held behind government walls.  We will no longer accept 3-minute opportunities to speak at a city council meeting on a weekday afternoon as an opportunity to participate.  We will no longer accept government officials forcing their decisions about our lives without being involved in the process.

The model Local Open Government Directive is intended to be an executive initiated order or directive to the local government under the executive’s legal authority.  An executive leader, such as a mayor, should use this model to adopt a directive for the city to help institutionalize open government principles within the city government.

In partnership with OpenPlans, we are hosting the directive at opengovernmentinitative.org. There, you can view and download the directive and share it with others.

In addition, our friends at the Sunlight Foundation have created a site where you can sign up to show your support for this effort.

In the upcoming weeks and months, we will be reaching out to government officials to build support for the directive and to implement the directive in local governments.

We encourage you to show your support for the directive and to reach out to your elected officials to ask what they’re doing to promote open government and to include the public, to include you, in your government’s processes.  Together, we can make our government more transparent, participatory, collaborative, and accountable.  Remember, we’re building our government; that means we all have the responsibility to be informed and to participate.  Government officials have to do their part, and we have to do ours for open government efforts to be successful and for government services to work.

If you’re interested in participating in the open government movement, please join our Open Government Initiative group.

Finally, I’d like to thank all of the people I’ve been fortunate to work with through CityCamp Colorado and the Open Government Directive.  Kevin, Brian, Sean, Michele, Alissa, Nicole, Phil Ashlock, and many others are some of the most motivated, hard-working, brilliant people I’ve had the pleasure to work with.

Cheers to the future of our government!


Designing Government for the People

March 4, 2010

I was talking to a co-worker about our office’s reconfiguration plans, which involve merging divisions and training employees to handle a wider variety of customer needs.  It’s a nice plan, and it is likely to benefit our customers by removing the layers they have to dig through to get to the services they need.

In the physical world the reconfiguration has involved combining two separate customer entrances that were on two different floors into a single entrance with employees from two divisions at the front counter.  One of the next steps is to create a single call center for the two divisions, instead of the existing structure that utilizes an auto-mated phone tree to direct customers to the appropriate division.  But, this post isn’t about the reconfiguration. 

The discussion triggered some other thoughts about providing efficient services.  Government watchdogs and government itself continually make calls for more efficient government- faster, more reliable service, at less cost.

A state government trend in this area has been the creation of Web-based portals that allow customers to access a variety of services from multiple state agencies through a single website.  Some of these portals are a mere collection of information and links to other agencies, such as Colorado’s www.colorado.gov.  Other portals are based on functional needs, such as registering a business through the Utah Division of Corporations’ OneStop Business Registration site, http://www.corporations.utah.gov/osbr_phase_2.html.  (Both of those examples are NIC websites, but they are substantially different.)

Portals and other virtual spaces offer customers an alternative to visiting multiple government agencies to accomplish their tasks.  But, the real key to efficiency is to make people efficient.

Efficiency isn’t just about consolidating locations, whether they are physical or virtual.  Efficiency is about rationalizing functions.

Please hold the backlash for just a moment.  I know this didn’t work so well with homeland security.  That’s what my co-worker mentioned as he laughed, maybe rightfully so, at my suggestion of consolidating state agencies.

Technology is making a lot of improvements in efficiency possible.  I do believe the Internet, social media, mobile devices, and other technological developments are making government better and are helping people get more from their government.  But, can technology make up for inefficient structures?  If a person has to visit at least three state agencies to form a business, get a license, and sign up to pay taxes, can a website make up for the twists and turns, the discrepancies in policies, the processing delays, and the inconsistency in customer service?

Technology can make up for a lot, but improving government is not just about making government more efficient; it’s about making people more efficient.

The question shouldn’t be how can government do it?  The question should be how would a person do it?  Processes should be designed around people’s practices and expectations.  Government agencies shouldn’t expect people to adapt to the government’s ideas.

Redesigning government around people will take a lot more than new websites.  Redesigning government will take changes to legal frameworks, a lot of vision, and a whole lot of cooperation.

I’m sure there are a lot of holes to this idea that I haven’t filled, but I’ll settle for starting with a little idealism.

(If you’re interested in some similar ideas, check out Nicholas Charney’s discussion on Govloop, Envisioning a fully web enabled government department/agency and the related comments.)