People are pretty frustrated with government these days. Seventy-five percent of likely Oakland voters feel their Council and Mayor are doing only a fair or poor job, and a similar percentage of Americans just gave the Republican Party its lowest approval rating in history.

In Oakland, frustration is mounting over the government’s inability to deliver local government’s most basic service: safety. But failure to meet citizens’ most urgent needs is not their only frustration. The cumbersome and obscure bureaucratic processes of Oakland’s City Hall can make us feel that our government is neither by the people nor for the people.

Code for America (CfA) is a national organization that helps cities acquire technologies for improving service delivery and engagement in the hopes of building more trust between citizens and their government. Last year, I led Oakland’s successful bid to win a CfA fellowship.

This week, CfA launched a new public records request system for Oakland. RecordTrac makes it easier for Oaklanders to get whatever information they need from their government through a simple, transparent and friendly website. Next week, CfA will spotlight Oakland’s successes at their National Summit on Civic Technology.

Also this week, the Council’s Finance Committee recommended adoption of my proposed Open Data Policy requiring that Oakland’s public data be proactively made available in useable formats. These are important steps in making “public information” actually public.

Public information and government data belong to you. By sharing it, government can engage and empower citizens to join us in solving problems, delivering services and improving our residents’ lives. We’ve already seen how, when Oakland’s data is made available to our creative, tech-savvy residents, we get interesting and useful applications like Crimespotting, and OpenBudgetOakland. These websites were all designed for free by Oakland residents, for Oakland residents using free public data. Thank you Oaklanders!

I recognize that government’s biggest credibility challenge is simply meeting your needs. In Oakland right now, that means safety. But what else can we do to resuscitate democracy and rebuild Oakland’s trust in its government? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. See our guidelines.

2 Responses

  1. R2D2II

    Transparency isn’t about having a new system of presenting numbers. Transparency in government is about having a clear vision of what government wants to do, having a plan for doing specific things and then reporting on actual accomplishments in getting things done. None of which Oakland does. I don’t know whether Libby Schaaf is simply stupid or just a great big liar, but I wouldn’t believe a single thing that passes her lips.


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