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PAUSD and CPA Officials Should Hold Virtual Office Hours

Original post made by Wayne Martin, Fairmeadow, on Jun 17, 2013

Transparency continues to be a problem with government, at all levels, in my opinion. Local government agencies, like the PAUSD and the City of Palo Alto (CPA), could open the window on the inner workings of the PAUSD, a little, by taking advantage of social networking tools, like Skype, Instant Messenger, and Google/VideoChat, by offering “Virtual Office Hours”—which would provide the public access to each of you, singly, or in small groups, to discuss issues, ideas, or changes to anything from the schedule to the curriculum.

Most people have little, or no, access to public officials. Time, distance, and other commitments make it difficult to connect with the individuals whom we have elected to oversee our various governmental agencies. We have no real idea who our elected officials are, or what they might think about an issue that is still “beneath the radar”, to those of most pressing importance. “Virtual Office Hours” would open the doors to more people’s being able to have a face-to-face discussions with those in whom we have invested our trust.

The technology to offer VideoChats is now commonly available, via the Internet, and free, client-side, software, like the Google Chrome browser, and plug-ins that are also free to download. Google/Hangouts will allow up to eight people to connect in a session, and doubtless other software will emerge supporting even more users, in time.

It’s past time for our local government agencies (such as the PAUSD and CPA) to offer the voters, residents and businesses state-of-the-art out-reach to the community they service. There would be no cost to using this technology—other than a commitment of time on the part of our school officials to be more open to the voters/parents than they currently are.

Comments (2)

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 17, 2013 at 10:27 am

It can be difficult to connect with government officials and get our input/opinions taken into consideration. Your idea of additional channels is good, but remember not everyone is techie. I have an elderly relative who is very politically engaged yet does not even use email.
I have not emailed PA city council members (when I otherwise would like to have done) owing to lack of time/short notice of some issue and the fact that my email address would be disclosed. Snail mail is time consuming with the necessary lead time to be timely before a vote.
A lot of people do express opinions on this forum and it would make sense for PAUSD and city elected officials to at least glance at it. Two great examples: school calendar changes & road narrowings within the city.
Palo Alto is a surprisingly large, costly city operation and it would be better if more people gave input and that input was considered. I feel more confortable with more oversight (public and local news media!!!), rather than less.
When I have contacted Congresswoman Eshoo's office, I have had timely response.
Bad experiences recently and in past with State Senator's office.
I have emailed both CA senators numerous times and have only the faint hope that my opinion is tallied on some list. I have typically received boilerplate, VERY delayed response, although Senator Feinstein's office has sent some slightly personalized responses; Boxer's office, to my recollection, has been almost totally non-responsive/non-acknowledging.
I think it's important that citizens DO give input, their opinions on bills/issues at the appropriate levels of elected government, so thank you for even bringing this up to remind people to try to do that. All we can do is try.
We are a long way from Washington, D.C. and it is clear we are viewed as an ATM for political campaigns, although CA elected representatives are typically powerful, WE individual citizens are not insofar as our opinions/input. Exmple: demonizing the "rich" as families making 250K, when cost of living in our area is so much greater than almost every other area of the country, yet broad-brush statements/decisions/laws/rulings are made applying to us all, without acknowledgement of our situation and input.

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 19, 2013 at 1:29 pm

I would like to thank Board Member Dana Tom for bringing up my suggestion of having Board Members, and other School Officials, be available, on-line, for increased access by the public. The essence of the idea can be found here:

Web Link

All of the “technology” is readily available to everyone, so why shouldn’t we expect our elected officials to make use of the tools that Silicon Valley has made available over the years?

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