They are our new age city advocates – just like our tried and true volunteers who wear vests and bring shovels, these new style digital folks, use an iPad, the cloud and zeros & ones to engage the citizenry, help govt get the word out, make things easier- faster-better! They are committed to Oakland, and are generous with their skills and amazing abilities and know how.

A City Staffer and attendee of CityCamp Oakland talking about OpenOakland!
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Farewell to the Achievement Gap?

Dr Royal talked about the history of this phrase and the clear and present meaning conveyed when it is used most commonly to describe the performance difference between white kids and kids of color in our public schools (and mostly just for black and brown students).  This paragraph states the reality quite well:

Because of America’s racial history and legacy, the cross-racial comparison that holds up white student achievement as the universally standard goal is problematic. Further, the term “achievement gap” is inaccurate because it blames the historically marginalized, under-served victims of poor schooling and holds whiteness and wealth as models of excellence. And, as with all misnomers, the thinking that undergirds the achievement gap only speaks of academic outcomes, not the conditions that led to those outcomes, nor does it acknowledge that the outcomes are a consequence of those conditions.

At the Council we worked heavily in partnership with OUSD in setting up the African American Male Achievement initiative in Oakland last year, and there was a huge focus on the achievement gap that we pushed back on with all the goal indicators- the assumption that our black and brown boys must be achieving to the same level as white boys just did not make any sense- if the bar is set low then reaching the goal is a BS waste of time. There were some instances where white males had great outcomes, and in those cases the District chose to keep them as the benchmark…

When we look at California school districts like Oakland, the outcomes for white males are not GOOD, so why would we seek this for our most disenfranchised students?  We instead pushed for a quality standard that required all students to improve outcomes.  It lead us to develop a new Equity Framework at the Council- we’re talking now about how equity requires a measure of quality before there is measurable, meaningful equality.

Equity

We also use language that communicates the disparities between ethnic groups- we want people to understand there are differences that are not healthy, but it is not as you say correctly just about those student’s performance- they don’t exist in a bubble, they exist in neighborhoods with unequal conditions and have historical issues to face.  In the end, putting it all on those kids as being under-achievers does in fact diminish the wider scope of responsibility that we conveniently ignore as a system and a society.

Check out our equity framework concept here http://urbanstrategies.org/equity/

To get an idea of how place and other factors impact out kids take a look at the map of suspension rates for African American males in Oakland.

suspensions

Finally a CityCamp in Oakland!

Amid the craziness of an election season, negative press all around, people getting political on Facebook, our nation becoming more and more polarized and a never ending stream of government corruption and scandals it’s hard to expect that regular people have any trust or interest in government anymore.  But that can and must change.  And guess what? You can play a part in this important change! Even in Oakland, a city with quite a mixed history…

CityCamp is in town! We at OpenOakland are proud to announce the first ever CityCamp in Oakland, visit CityCampOak.org to register now, it’s free and it will be inside City Hall on December 1.  This is an important event for those of us excite about this thing we call Open Government and for those of us who love this city!

cco

Why should you care, and attend?  We all rely on our local governments for so much, from delivering clean water, removing garbage, maintaining streets, parks and libraries and for hosting cultural events.  Like it or not you and I rely on government for a lot, and that’s cool.  In the USA we are blessed with a democracyfor the people and of the people. This system only works when we are all civically involved.  Contrary to popular press there is no “them” and “us”, we are our government, and our government consists of a whole bunch or “us”, that is people who live in our communities.  But there is a twist in this system. If we simply treat our cities like service vending machines- taxes in, service out, then we cannot expect innovation, efficiency and openness.  That is a closed concept, a limited function system that is dumb and doesn’t adapt.

But government can and should be much more. Many of us dig the idea of governmentas a platform: a platform which supports safe communities, job growth, solid schools, business development and innovation.  As a platform we can enable so much in our communities.  To most of you this is likely a new concept, but trust me this matters; our governments have a ton of changing to do, and they will not and can not do it without all of us being involved and engaged.

So come to CityCamp Oakland – it’s a whole day of amazing conversations, sharing, learning and ideation with people from inside city hall, local technologists, community members, journalists, advocates, teachers and other awesome people who care about their city and what it can really be.  CityCamps are unconferences- we build our agenda on the day. It’s fun. Seriously. You can lead a session on anything you want, it can be a new idea for a government/community partnership, a data issue, a possible technology solution.

CityCamps are a gateway drug to modern civic engagement.  We have two big choices in a Democracy- to sit back and be consumers (read- let others do the leading and have no say in how our country is run) or we can be citizens- actively involved in our communities. 

We just heard that the City Administrator is taking a lead from Mayor Ed Lee in SF and offering staff a day’s leave if they attend too, which is brilliant leadership- it’s often hard to encourage overworked, isolated city staff to waste a weekend day like this. So thank you Deanna for supporting your team and helping us to build a stronger community through real conversations and collaboration!

See you there December 1st!  This is a rare positive event in this political climate, come help us write the future of active, engaged democracy!!

CityCampOak.org

Open Government in Oakland’s Elections

This month the OpenOakland brigade launched the OpenGov Pledge for all candidates seeking election for Oakland’s City Council and Attorney seats. As of today we have nine candidates who have signed on to our campaign in just a couple of days work, check out who has been quick to the draw and which of your local candidates have yet to commit here:

OaklandCandidates.org

Why would an organization of techs, software developers, engineers and advocates bother with something like a pledge?  It’s because this community is being activated more than ever to participate and to become active, engaged citizens, and we’re bringing with us many of the ideals, perspectives and design approaches common in opensource technology development community. Openness, collaboration, sharing, networked communities and networked project teams.

From our perspective we believe that open government is important for a thriving and accountable democracy. With the technology that exists today, government and citizen can interact with one another in ways that were unimaginable before. By opening conduits from which the public can communicate with government and access the pertinent information about their city, the needs of the public are better served.

One powerful (and commonly referred to) example of how a commitment to open government can better serve the public is by offering taxpayer-produced data online in a free and easily accessible format. A web portal can be a clearinghouse for public data without the need to engage in potentially lengthy and costly public record requests. Such initiatives, which can be powered with open source technology as we are demonstrating, could save the city money and time while also allowing the public easy access to important information immediately.

As OpenOakland, we’re asking all 2012 candidates for City Council and City Attorney to express support for open government principles by signing the candidate open government pledge, here. Similar pledges were signed by mayoral candidates in San Francisco in 2011 and Honolulu this year.

We all recognize that Oakland is poised for greatness, however this will only be fully realized should governance be improved. We thank candidates for showing they believe in Oakland through their candidacies. We want all those running and all voters to know that the Oakland tech community is eager to pitch in to help you make good, responsive, transparent, open government a reality!

Lastly we are not undertaking this pledge as a means of political maneuvering, as a way to shame any candidates or as a tool to later use as a weapon against anyone, OpenOakland will always be a nonpartisan, nonpolitical organization with a focus and a habit of doing positive, supportive things in ways that lift up our community.  We believe this is important and that our candidates need to know that opengov is a serious issue and that there is a local and worldwide community looking to help them make this a reality, especially when it comes to using technology in new, creative ways!

Code for Oakland: Unexpected Awesomeness

It took me a long time to come down from the excitement driven high that was Code for Oakland, our second communty based hackathon in Oaktown designed to build our civic web. I’m refreshed, excited, motivated and optimistic about the direction of tech and civic innovation and engagement in the east bay and have many great people to thank for helping make this event rock.

I want to briefly share some stories of the event and to lay out some of the highlights and things that really stood out during the day.

First, it’s important to reiterate that this is a community supported hackathon, kinda like KPFA- community supported radio. We had some great support from local organizations through financial donations to help make it possible and without them the event could not have happened, so thanks to:
Ask.com
Socrata
Code for America
Kapor Foundation
The Oakland Tribune
Urban Strategies Council
The Kapor Foundation
Oakland Local
Neighborland
OpenShift/Red Hat
The City of Oakland
Pandora

With almost 150 people through the doors this was bigger and more intense than last year’s event. As a data geek I’m looking forward to analysing the data on ticket sales v no-shows in light of our experiment using the pay what you want model.

I’m excited that we had only 30% of the attendees that were software deveopers, engineers, hackers. My first reaction to the ticket sales patterns was- oh crap, we don’t have enough designers. But my man Eddie Tejeda quickly reframed this as an advantage- after all we need ideas and implementors and people who will use an app on each team, not just designers building for themselves and from their own idead. He was right. it worked.

I enjoyed Jen Pahlka’s keynote, showing us what this community can really do and how our impact matters. It’s easy as Jen mentioned, to forget your own town when there are so many needs and opportunities elsewhere that you’re asked to work!

Jen Pahlka

I was then completely overwhelmed with the intense, long list of pitches from our attendees. So many great ideas, all grounded in some very real issue or need in our community. It was brilliant, but tough to manage. I think we did a reasonable job of feeding ideas from our Neighborland system into the Googel Moderator and then trying to form teams based on general interest- given we were late and needed to expedite it could have been cleaner but most people were happy it seemed, even if a few ideas didn’t get a team because the interested pitchers joined other great project teams…

Oaklandwiki session

The first real shock of the day was the result at the end of the hack team formation- we’d spent some real time building out a great set of workshops and speaker sessions for the community and government audience who had signed up and would not be joining hack teams, just like last year. At the end of the team forming this was the scene in the gorgeous auditorium:

Wow. With only a few exceptions the whole room emptied and joined a hack team. No way. Random oaklanders from all walks of life jumped on hack teams? Damn. Stunned. I felt a crazy tension of embarassment that our great speakers were totally ditched (yes me included, how could you all?) and awe that so many people were excited to get involved in efforts they really had no comprehension of till this day. Yes this was an unplanned outcome. Very unplanned but that just makes it even more awesome- Oakland you rock.

The day was solid developing and designing from then on. All speakers cancelled. Empty auditorium. Crazy cool.

Dattit team

What stood out through the day was the intensity and desire for conversation about civic technology needs, engagement opportunities and open government and open data. People really crave a venue for these conversations. I had so many exciting conversations with peopel eager to learn more about what modern tech can offer our community and our city and ways we can support this community more consistently. Love it.

Our awesome judges

We had some elected officials and others show during the day, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, city administrator Deanna Santana,, county administrtor Susan Muranishi and the county IT crew including Tim Dupus and Tobin Broadhurst promoting their new open data resource at data.adgov.org. I look forward to the day when government leaders really devote serious time to be part of these events, but at I think that even the 15 minutes they spent with us achieved one significant goal: these leaders have now seen a building full of hackers! Not hackers seeking to destroy and undermine anything, but hackers with incredible skills seeking ways to support and growntheir community and our government. This is not a small thing. To alter their perception of this community is monumental. Hackers are not “the enemy”. Sure some can be, but the generalization is harmful to productive, innovative society that sees government embracing the abilities of moder, agile, opensource loving developers.

The day was done way too soon. Our judges struggled to identify the award splits between 10 great tools prototyped. The winning app called Hack The Budget is something that for some analysts and data visualization folks may seem trivial, but it isn’t. It’s a perfect example of how data processing, viz tools and throughtful design can take an arcane, clunky, unusable product/data and turn it into something absorbable by the wider community in our city. making government accessible is a huge challenge and this app seeks to do just that. I’d say this is a hugely re-usable app once complete and open sourced. What city doesn’t need a clearer way to navigate its budget- even for city officials themselves! I’m looking forward to immersing myself in this app when it’s complete!

The runner up app was 510eat.org, and as a geogeek I was surprised and stoked to see a full opengeo stack being used to build working app with newly released data from Alameda County. Open data being consumed and utilized as a new tool just two weeks after the resource was beta released. Nice work team!

Oaklandwiki session

Lessons learned for future/other hackathons:

Spend more time connecting teams- we had one viable team with no designers and another team with about 7 developers. Oops.

One day is tough with so many great ideas. The trend of three day hackathons is sensible. Friday evening pitches and team formation. Two days of building. This means we need a better suited venue in Oakland as the awesome Kaiser center has significant costs per day and bandwidth issues. – Ideas? Hit me on twitter with ideas or throw down in Neighborland!

We did a hackthon without soda- no Choke or other sugar hits. And noone died or even complained. We actually forgot to buy them first, then realized we didn’t have them last year either, so we decided to see how it worked out. And it did. We’ll all live a little longer to code a few more lines and make just a little bit more with our lives…

Post seems long now, thanks for getting this far and so long from sunny San Diego!

Mac world?

OpenData inches forward in Oakland and Code for America to follow!

This week was a good week for data geeks, technologists and open government advocates in Oakland! The City Finance committee heard and passed onto the full council a plan to both adopt an opendata platform (and policy we expect) as well as the plan to contract with Code for America as a 2013 city (should we be a finalist)!!!

These are great things for our city, a city starved from innovation and good technology  decisions in the past, but these progressions represent a move towards better government and better support of the civic technology community! Finally. The next step for both is to get final approval by the Oakland City Council, I’ll be hitting up people to come and support both so we don’t lose these opportunities.

There was some confusion in committee about the delineation of what opendata was and who would be “doing” it and what Code for America was and what it would be doing. To make it clear:

  • The CfA fellowship will be for a team of fellows- not a single intern. Yes it may seem cheap, but there is a philanthropic match required!
  • The OpenData effort is NOT connected (directly) to the CfA contract. it may be symbiotic, but the opendata system is being planned, built(?) and implemented by an internal city team.
  • Either can happen without the other, but both are immeasurably stronger together!

I’m amused by the city staff assessment of how much it would cost them to build such a platform internally, it speaks to the dire need for Code for America like experimentation and new skills in all governments. Given our OpenOakland brigade member stood up a functioning opendata platform using CKAN in a single night it’s hard to take seriously a claim that we should pay ~$120,000 for developers to build something. This is part of the equation in government that results in decisions made to contract with outside vendors who are too often way too expensive for what they provide but still provide better value and options than an internal solution. This needs to change.

The concept for the CfA partnership is to reform/rebuild the city’s contracting and procurement system- and if you’ve ever had to deal with the city as a small business contractor you know this needs drastic rebuilding! Our city needs this to better support, attract and grow local businesses!

Overall the support for both efforts was strong and there is growing excitement from city staff for both of these opportunities- I’m excited about this also. My one desire for improvement here is that the city staff needs to begin genuine engagement with it’s tech/data community. Simply to build a tool and publish data is basic, good government, but to open up and engage your stakeholders and constituents- that’s great government.

*Disclaimer- I didn’t get to attend the committee meeting, two of my team did in my place. I was busy at a meeting in the City of Richmond introducing the idea of OpenData… the harvest is plentiful

Opinion: We want to push out poor, dumb, unwanted black people

[This represents my opinion and is not in any way an official statement from my organization.]

Today my team held a press conference and launched a new report examining the role of private investors/speculators in post-foreclosure Oakland. Check it all here. We started this research project as a result of some data mining we were doing with foreclosure data- trying to develop better strategies to help stop, prevent or recover foreclosures. We noticed some names coming up over and over- not the names of banks, the names of new investment corporations. So we dug, and found enough interesting content to justify a full report: Investors have acquired two of every five foreclosed properties in Oakland- with 93% being located in the poorer flatlands. The same neighborhoods hit hardest by predatory lending of subprime loans that kicked off this here housing crisis.

The first article to drop in the press today stunned me, this article from Aaron Glantz of the Bay Citizen tells a great story of an Oakland homeowner who loses his home as a result of an injury and subsequent job loss. An investor buys it,then flips it shortly after for a substantial profit. Instead of the bank adjusting the guy’s mortgage, it forecloses, losing serious value in the long term but getting a huge cash injection on the spot- very important given how little profit our banks are making? The investor, or speculator, in this case receives the equity gain- the same equity gains our parents have built up in their homes over decades- although in this case the gains are not enriching our middle class nor working families, but corporations, equity firms and hedge funds. We call that wealth transfer, or #WealthTransfer.

What stunned me was the response of the representative from Sullivan (connected to REO Homes- one of the two biggest speculators):

“We want to bring in good, productive people and really change the area”

In a city with such protracted battles over gentrification, both planned and organic, this is a profound statement. For these “investors”, cash gets them cheap housing and easy profits, and their greed prevents local families from competing to acquire homes of their own- the great American dream. When someone will tell a journalist in Oakland that they want to “bring in” – “good, productive people” the message is clear to Oakland’s historically diverse residents-

if you’re poor or working class, if you’re black or brown, then you’re lazy and we don’t want you in this neighborhood- get out so we can make some money.

I’m really stunned that this rep would make such a clearly racist statement. There’s no grounds upon which you can claim that is not a clearly racist, anti-poor statement. If we need to “bring in” good people from SF, we clearly don’t have good people here already do we now, noone good or noone trying to buy a home to own and grow old in and hopefully see some equity and wealth growth of their own, some basis of stability to hand down to their children when they get old. This is once again how wealth is stripped from poor and working class communities across the USA, especially communities of color. Our society and our formerly strong middle class have been strengthened by families paying off their homes and retiring with modest wealth- and eventually these families pass on this wealth to their children. When this sustains and grows we call it “old money” and this clearly helps to sustain and strengthen communities. There are no good motives for trying to deny the chance to build wealth amongst communities of color, but this is clearly a result of such practices.

Topping this off, on the way home from the press conference, I pulled up at a traffic light across from my office, next to a property developer in his truck, to overhear two white guys conversing about this issue, the stand out:

“we’ve got to find someone who can help us deal with these negroes.”

I kid you not. Racism is alive and well in Oakland, no doubt about it. This is why I won’t be out of a job anytime soon.

Here’s my interview on KPFA this morning about this also: MP3.

Become a (new) part of an amazing history- in Oakland

mlk

CALL FOR EXTRAS- The Call+Response/Slavery Footprint crew are filming an MLK walk reenactment this Saturday and are looking for African American males aged 30-50 to participate as film extras.

Looking for men in the 30s to 50s, dressed nicely (see reference photo). Call time is 9am, ending around 2p. The location is:

MLK Middle School- 1781 Rose Street, Berkeley, CA 94703

Contact:
Kerwin Kuniyoshi | Production Coordinator
Office: (510) 488-2456 | Facebook: Made In A Free World | Twitter @Slave_Footprint

How many slaves work for you? Find out at www.slaveryfootprint.org

Come and Code for Oakland in 2012!

It’s on again! We’re helping run the second wonderful hackathon for Oaktown: called Building Our Civic Web.

The focus of this year’s hackathon is on building apps, hacking public data and building tools to support economic development in Oakland, improve civic engagement, improve digital education and literacy in our residents and provide tools to attract and sustain local business in the town.

We’ve all seen ways that new businesses, local communities and the city itself could be massively improved through the thoughtful, creative use of good new tech solutions right? This is the perfect opportunity to show how the awesome developer community in Oakland and around can contribute in a powerful way to the improving and sustaining of our city. Coders matter.

As a lead up to the main hackathon our wonderful volunteers are running a month-long series of focused listening sessions to share your ideas, brainstorm community needs and help shape what is built at the hackathon. We want to hear from small business owners, community activists, teachers, city staff, nonprofit leaders and people from across the city- your ideas may just spark a great new app or tool to make positive change in our city!

I hope you will join Oakland’s community of civically engaged developers, coders, designers, entrepreneurs and innovators as we re-imagine ways in which collaboration and technology can help shape, grow, and sustain the healthy future of our City.

We think sustainable communities are important, and software needs sustaining also, so this year we’ll feature the great apps built last year and check in with the teams on how they’ve struggled or succeeded in getting their work into heavy adoption. We’re doing this to get real about how we as a community can better support any new apps built and make sure good ideas get more than just recognition and prizes- they get used and change our community!

www.codeforoakland.org

Register now at http://codeforoakland2012.eventbrite.com/

Follow the action with #CodeforOakland