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Town Square

Palo Alto tries to make 'hackathons' a family affair

Original post made on May 22, 2013

Hackers, designers and Silicon Valley technophiles will flood downtown Palo Alto's most prominent gathering spot with food, music, TED-style talks and gizmos galore on June 1 as part of the city's -- and the nation's -- inaugural festival to celebrate "civic hacking."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 9:07 AM

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 24, 2013 at 8:02 am

We live in a day and age when virtually anything one wants to know probably is on-line, or could be. Every day sees more e-books, video, audio and data about the world around us appearing on the WEB, somewhere in the world.

City Manager James Keene has been banging on about "the Digital City" since he showed up in Palo Alto—but he's done virtually nothing about advancing that idea. How many startups have come and gone since Keene's taking over the helm of the City's 1200-odd employees, and $150M yearly budget? He's had a lot of time to wheel and deal with property developers, or so it would seem. But how much time has he spent actually getting a technology plan in place? Even a first draft, subject to vetting and significant change over a two-three year review cycle would be a lot better than the "nothing" that Keene seems to have produced in that department.

The kinds of information that could be on-line on the City's web-site, but isn't (for the most part) includes:

o) All of the votes of all of the Boards and Commissions, and City Council
o) An inventory of all City records
o) City's Record Retention Schedule reflecting indefinite retention of digital materials.
o) Archiving of all video/audio recordings of City meetings.
o) All FPPC filings made by individuals/groups on-line.
o) All Previous City Election Results

These suggestions are just an example of the sorts of information kept on paper by the City, that could be very useful to an electorate that is actively engaged in the governance of their City.

It's fair to say that there is so much "technology" on the market, and the horizon, that any vision, or plan, might well be obsolete as soon as it is approved. The private sector seems to be able to factor these sorts of changes into their use of this equipment, so why can't the public sector?

The suggestions above tend to focus on replacing paper records with their electronic counterparts. There are many other possibilities in the physical domain, such as:

o) City-wide Traffic Monitoring Equipment
o) City-wide Noise Level Monitoring
o) Surveillance Cameras For Increased Public Safety
o) Integrating Police Capabilities With Surrounding Communities
o) On-line Reporting Of Parking Availability For Smartphone Apps

It doesn't take much imagination to just look around and see possibilities for technology use in delivery City services with the existing Internet, and mobile communications devices available to all of us.

However, rather than producing a five-year technology plan, City Manager Keene seems to want to orchestrate street faires that don't produce much but publicity for himself.