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Nominate Local Champions of Open Government

Sunshine Week begins March 11.

Do you know people in Palo Alto who have championed local government transparency?  Palo Alto Patch is participating in Sunshine Week 2012, which begins on March 11, by promoting the Sunshine Week organization’s national Local Heroes contest. We’ll also be talking up, covering and conversing with you about open government and freedom of information on our site during that week so stay tuned.

Today we want to kick that conversation off with a call to action to you to nominate local open government champions who have played a significant role fighting for local government transparency. How about Sid Espinosa starting the regular "Message from the Mayor," or Peak Democracy's Open City Hall? Let's get a list of names going in the comments below, and nominate our favorites using the link below.

The deadline for nominations is Monday Feb. 20 so put this on your Must Do list right away. The winner will be honored in Washington. We'll share the winners with you.

Here’s a link to the Sunshine Week nomination form.
www.sunshineweek.org/LocalHeroes/LocalHeroNomination.aspx

Faced any challenges with government transparency in our town? Share your stories with me at aarons@patch.com and I'll share them with our community.

Aaron Selverston February 16, 2012 at 05:50 PM
I'll throw former Palo Alto Mayor Sid Espinosa into the hat, for being the first to write monthly messages to the community. He also held regular office hours and made himself as approachable as possible.
Mark Weiss February 16, 2012 at 10:15 PM
why not instead do story on something that is not being reported, rather than whatever this puff story is....Sonoma State Underreported stories, Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent, Woodward and Bernstein, et cetera... Not that you'll find anything but poke around a little....
Aaron Selverston February 16, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Mark, I think Woodward and Bernstein would agree that an open and transparent government is vital to the health of any democratic society. Do you disagree? Why is it a bad thing to recognize people who are working toward that end?
Sid Espinosa February 17, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Thanks for the mention. A few other ideas: (1) The Media Center. They are very much focused on making government accessible and transparent to all -- and I know that they're thinking about how their work may evolve in the years ahead; (2) Palo Alto city manager Jim Keene and the city's new CIO Jonathan Reichental. These two guys have a vision for how technology can be used to engage more citizens, business and orgs in the working of the city, share more information about government activities (i.e., increase transparency), and frankly, make government more responsive. (3) SeeClickFix and similar platforms. These platforms have the power to transform the ways that local governments and their citizens work together to solve problems. The impact on transparency could be significant.
Aaron Selverston February 17, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Sid, those are fantastic suggestions. Mayor Yeh was just yesterday talking to me about an exciting new open data app that will allow residents to look at any street in the city and see how it ranks based on a number of criteria... potholes, old paint, cracks, etc. All that data has been locked up in a computer somewhere, so it's great to see it getting into residents' hands. I'd love to meet Reichental and talk more about his vision... can you do an email introduction? SeeClickFix is awesome, too. Would love to see more Palo Altans using it! And yes, of course, the Media Center rules. Love them!
Fred Balin February 20, 2012 at 06:48 AM
Karen Holman. In her first 4-year term on the Planning & Transportation Commission, she convinced colleagues to adopt a policy frowning on outside communications in land-use matters that sought exceptions from current zoning rules. The policy contributed a great deal toward the public’s enhanced level of respect for, and acceptance of, the commission’s work. Not everyone was pleased, nor was this accomplishment and public benefit universally recognized. Holman narrowly lost her bid for a council seat in 2005. Dusting herself off, she returned for another term on the commission, where the policy of total transparency held. In 2009, she was elected to the council and shortly after, embarked on what would be an 18-month effort toward reform through the maze of city process and the stutter starts, stops, and misdirections in traversing the Council's Procedures and Protocols. But the end results were tangible and significant good government advances, including a mandated minimum 5-day window prior to the release of a city staff report for the submission of planning applicant materials to staff. It took the background of some egregious transgressions, appropriate timing, public demand, and a council village ready to change. But it also needed a driver; one who was committed to the cause, able to gracefully absorb collateral heat, while maintaining an eye on the prize and earning the respect to bring colleagues along.

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