Archive for 2013

Free Money: $5K for Top Idea on Tech Helping Sacto

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

patrickatwaterBy Patrick Atwater
Special to Calbuzz

Political writer Patrick Atwater is an author, entrepreneur and frequent Calbuzz commentator who has a major jones for reforming California’s government. Following publication of his idealistic and intelligent book, “A New California Dream,” Atwater is now offering cash money through his Stag Hunt Enterprises, Inc. in an essay competition to seek out “world-beating ideas” of how technology can be brought to bear on bureaucracy in California. Details here.

In his most recent inaugural address, Gov. Brown reflected on the endemic nature of the issues California faces, issues that extend well beyond the borders of the Golden State:

brownhands“Many of these issues have confronted California one way or another for decades, certainly since the time of Gov. Earl Warren. It is sobering and enlightening to read through the inaugural addresses of past governors. They each start on a high note of grandeur and then focus on virtually the same recurring issues — education, crime, budgets, water.

I have thought a lot about this and it strikes me that what we face together as Californians are not so much problems but rather conditions, life’s inherent difficulties. A problem can be solved or forgotten but a condition always remains. It remains to elicit the best from each of us and show us how we depend on one another and how we have to work together.”

I must respectfully disagree.  I believe that recent advances in information technology have the potential to revolutionize what constitutes government, transforming how we tackle the basic task of figuring out how to live together.  And in that vein, what we face together as Californians might be most profitably framed not as conditions – facts of life we simply must accept – but as challenges, higher peaks to which we might aspire.  A condition can only be mediated or managed but a challenge can be tackled in new ways.

Here’s a crazy idea: what if the fuel for California’s next Gold Rush lay buried within its governmental bureaucracy?  Not through some policy or program but in the revolutionary power of technology to transform the very notion of government.

It’s important to remember that we no longer live in the time of Earl Warren.  The computer and internet revolutions have transformed how we as humans live, work, and play.  Yet walk into any school across the state and you’ll find a bureaucracy built around the same basic logic that the original progressive movement pioneered over a century ago.

brokengovernmentI believe in the basic principle that an effective government adapts to the realities of the world and that California’s “twisted, dysfunctional, Byzantine, gridlocked system” needs a dramatic overhaul to meet our pressing challenges – like the fact that a child’s opportunity is far too much a function of the zip code they’re born into.  I’ve spent the last few years of my life exploring how we might build a government good enough to build that needed equality of opportunity.

Yet more than anything that service has demonstrated how humbling these mountains truly are and that these challenges demand “loyalty to what is larger than our individual needs.”  In that spirit, I’d like to offer you a personal invitation and $5000 in prizes to articulate the revolutionary potential of technology solutions to California’s basic challenges – budgets, schools, water, environmental quality, and issues that go beyond our current frameworks.

Budgets How might machine readable financial data that’s easily interoperable across municipal jurisdictions transform how we manage public resources?

Education – How might a teacher to community matching platform for awesome learning opportunities be used to transform our current school model?

Water – How might recent developments in big data and the internet of things sensing technology be leveraged to adaptively manage every drop of California’s precious water?

Environmental Quality – How might new virtual pathways be leveraged to reimagine how analysis and public comment is integrated to make environmental determinations?

Terra Incognita – How might technological changes like the Singularity or Mars colonization transform what needs to constitute government?

The key goal in all of these questions is to articulate what this technological potential means for government.  What new pathways for tackling public problems are possible with these tools?  The following pages reflect my best insights from these past few years to explore that territory, providing rough maps of where you might look for gold.

These explorations are not a panacea for all of California’s ills but they do represent the possibility of a creative and pragmatic step towards building a better direction for this great state.  Still some may dismiss these changes – or this entire expedition – out of hand as unknown and unproven but let’s remember that’s just the defining nature of a frontier.

Luckily, however, if California excels at anything it’s this: pioneering the new.  Submissions are due by midnight at the end of June’s second fortnight.  We’re excited to see what gold you all dig up.

Excloo: Phil Trounstine May Run for Governor

Monday, May 27th, 2013

philwcarPhil Trounstine, who has terrified generations of politicians and once served as a top aide to tarred-and-feathered former Gov. Gray Davis, is himself eyeing a possible bid to become California’s elected chief executive, Calbuzz has learned.

kashkariThe revelation follows publication of a must-read, epic world scoop in the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday, disclosing that former Bay Area Goldman Sachs banker Neel Kashkari may run for governor and is engaged in a “stealth campaign” to challenge incumbent Gov. Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown, Jr.

In the wake of that blockbuster, Calbuzz sought out Trounstine as part of a wide ranging investigation that involved calling everyone we knew, to ask if he or she is also pondering a campaign for governor.

Trounstine hasn’t held press conferences, appeared in TV spots or made formal announcements about a possible future race for California governor.

Not yet, at least.

But on the Internet, the 39-year old former editor of the San Jose State Spartan Daily may be laying out the next chapter in his story. Besides bestirring himself to write one or two pieces a month for a popular, authoritative and dingbat website focused on California politics, he has further proven his mastery of social media by spending countless hours on Facebook and Twitter, posting pictures of his dogs and grandchildren, plus him and his stunning wife, Deborah, copping promotional giveaways at a San Francisco Giants game.

neelRating his rivals: Among those contacted by the plucky, prize-winning and powerful website were several clerks in Amador City Hall, a large number of felons incarcerated in California penitentiaries and the entire casts of both “Arrested Development” and “Game of Thrones” – the popular HBO fantasy epic that includes 257 characters in the third season alone.

In contrast to this group, Trounstine was the only one who refused to rule out a run: “I will neither confirm nor deny,” he said coyly under tough questioning. “I’ve learned to never say ‘never’ and I’m keeping all my options open.”

Still, Trounstine’s biggest challenge could be his wish to run as the nominee of the Peace and Freedom Party, where his history of Maoist politics and passions for higher taxes and coddling criminals would be a natural fit. Also mitigating against a possible run: his fierce commitment to playing golf seven days a week.

However, Trounstine would bring an encyclopedic knowledge of state politics and government that is a mile wide and an inch deep, which would make him fit right in at the Capitol (the lone exception to the characterization is Brown himself, who has been feeding at the public trough for nearly all of his life, now estimated at 97 years).

golfersTrolling for dollars: Trounstine reportedly has been sounding out potential donors, including his book group, small business merchants in his hometown of Aptos and the guys he plays golf with.

The prestigious Field Poll has not yet published a recent survey of gubernatorial wannabes, but a source close to our imagination told us that internal documents show Trounstine currently holding a commanding lead over fellow hopeful Kashkari, 0.0002% to 0.0001%. The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 71%, of course is a snapshot in time, and the new findings may merely represent the name ID of the pair, neither of whom anybody has heard of.

Bottom line: “Phil’s definitely an intriguing choice,” said one Democratic consultant. “At a time when the public is sick of slick, packaged and cautiously-spoken politicians, there aren’t too many candidates more suited than him.”

“Why not?” whispered a Republican insider. “At the rate we’re going, he’d certainly win more votes than anybody the GOP puts up.”