OC Register: 2016, the year citizens help government innovate

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Originally appeared at OC Register on February 11, 2015

With the Legislature back in session, it is imperative that we urge California politicians to adopt open government policies to make our government more transparent and accessible. Currently, we have a state government that is stuck in the past and failing to justly serve its residents. This past October, the Little Hoover Commission released a report, “A Customer-Centric Upgrade For California Government,” recognizing the state’s flaws. The commission found that technology could play an important part of meeting modern expectations and reestablish trust between California’s government and the people it serves.

It is clear that it is now time we utilize technology to enhance our state’s political infrastructure. Already, 2016 provides Californians with new opportunities to advance digital government strategy and increase efficiency and transparency.

Over the summer my nonprofit, Innovate Your State, launched a contest called the Fix California Challenge. The challenge offered an online platform to individuals to share their ideas on how to improve California. One idea submitted to the Fix California Challenge, which I have pledged to help get on California’s 2016 ballot, is the California Legislature Transparency Act. Former California state Sen. Sam Blakeslee submitted the idea to the challenge as the “Public’s Right to Know Act.” The initiative, which is also being backed by Charles Munger Jr., seeks to implement various open government reforms at the state level.

The measure would prohibit the Legislature from passing a bill until it has been in print and published online for a minimum of 72 hours prior to a vote, unless a public emergency is presented. The bill also requires audiovisual recording be allowed and shared online, unless it is a closed session proceeding. These measures would improve public transparency and reduce political games.

County governments also are taking matters into their own hands this year and adopting modern open data platforms to better serve their customers – county residents. As part of the Fix California Challenge, Innovate Your State made up to $500,000 in grant funding available to California county governments to receive a reimbursement for their first year of service when they enroll in OpenGov, a cloud-based platform that publicly provides government financial data, interactive reports and information on how taxpayer money is collected and spent. Counties that have enrolled in the platform through Innovate Your State grants include Napa, Kern, Placer, Mendocino, Colusa, Yolo and Sutter. Still, some of the larger counties don’t seem to be interested in transparency. We wonder what they might have to hide.

California’s government needs to be bolder and must adapt and embrace open governance solutions that enhance collaboration and transparency. We’ve seen citizens coming up with ideas that can drastically improve government, such as OpenGov and the Legislature Transparency Act. I encourage Californians to continue to work to fundamentally improve government through public participation and innovation. Together, we can make California a better state.

Tim Draper is a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and founder of Draper Associates, Draper University and of Innovate Your State. For more information, visit www.innovateyourstate.org


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