May 20, 2012

Warren Slocum for District Four Supervisor

May 16, 2012, 05:00 AM Editorial

There are seven high-quality candidates for District Four supervisor who all bring key points of view to the discussion about who would be best to serve as the district’s representative on the five-member Board of Supervisors.

However, there is one candidate who has the experience and track record of innovation who is the best choice for the position — Warren Slocum.

Slocum served as chief elections officer and assessor-county clerk-recorder in San Mateo County since 1986 before he retired in 2010. In that position, Slocum was well known for his interest in technology, innovation, democracy and civic engagement. Slocum has differentiated himself as a technologically savvy proponent of updated voting systems, all-mail ballots and an overall push for voter participation.

After the contentious 2000 presidential election revamped voting rules and equipment — typically lumped together under the 2002 Help America Vote Act — Slocum moved away from his support of paper voting to embrace the handicap-accessible eSlate electronic voting system and would still like to see all-mail ballots for their savings in both time and money.

Slocum also established and websites to help residents navigate the office remotely and increase accessibility and transparency.

In his time in office, he also properly handled what could have been a controversy when same-sex couples asked him to allow for them to be married. In a 2007 letter to 57 other county clerks and copied to state leaders, Slocum asked his peers to support the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act which would have granted clerks the authority to conduct marriages for same-sex couples. Slocum’s stance drew wide praise in the local LGBT community and attention on a wider scale.

As assessor, Slocum also oversaw a number of declining valued property reassessments — maintaining paperwork on ownership and foreclosure proceedings all while managing budget cuts to his departments.

In this campaign, no one has been able to knock Slocum on his government experience, which is sterling. One concern may be the situation in which a former elected official is seeking another elected office after retiring and his ability to question the establishment both in the County Manager’s Office and the sitting Board of Supervisors. However, those concerns can be diminished in two ways. First, elected officials returning to another elected office is nothing new. Supervisor Don Horsley’s experience as a former sheriff was seen as a benefit. And voters supported Jerry Brown when he returned to office as mayor of Oakland, California attorney general and governor, his former office. Political experience is important in elected office and should not be seen as a liability unless that person’s tenure was less than sterling, which is clearly not the case with Slocum. As far as questioning establishment, Slocum’s experience in county government should give him the stature to stand up for what he believes without suffering from a steep learning curve that a newcomer would encounter. One decision the board made recently that Slocum disagreed with was the purchase of the Circle Star properties in San Carlos for $40 million because the county should be investing in properties that make money. More than a year after the purchase, the county is contemplating leasing part of the property after moving certain county offices there didn’t make sense. Slocum also believed the board should have placed the issue of district elections on the ballot for voters to decide — an example of him standing apart from the status quo.

But more importantly, Slocum brings a certain innovative spirit to any endeavor. One innovation he directed was the wedding cam at his office so family members near and far could witness what is often a once-in-a-lifetime event. It’s a small thing, but an example of out-of-the-box thinking. Another example Slocum illustrates is using Zipcar technology to save money with the county motor pool and looking into other ways of using computer programs at the county level to save the cost of buying individual programs. In his time in his previous positions, we enjoyed seeing the cutting edge thinking and Silicon Valley spirit behind his new ideas while also adhering to the philosophy of ensuring that whatever is introduced still has an overall benefit to the entire community.

Simply put, Slocum is the best candidate and voters have an opportunity to take advantage of his innovative spirit and ability to speak his mind without a learning curve.

Click here to read complete article.

May 18, 2012

Six Guidelines for Government Leaders

HERE ARE a few simple (and brief) guidelines for government leaders to contemplate.

1. Agility - community needs change. Government needs to be nimble.

2. Establish a road map - We need to define where we are going. Every action has to be judged against a plan.

3. Do fewer things better - We can't do everything so focus on a limited number of initiatives.

4. Principles trump rules - A set of organizational beliefs is much stronger than rules.

5. Accountability - Risk-taking and entrepreneurial behavior should be encouraged.

6. Candor and Courage - If you make a mistake, explain why it happened and how you have adjusted the system for the future.

May 16, 2012

Saving Money with New Technologies

ONE OF ways that San Mateo County could save money is through using the cloud, online apps and collaboration tools provided by Microsoft and/or Google.

Historically, government would purchase licenses for an individual applications like Mircosoft Office for every worker. If there were 5,000 employees in an organization, that meant that 5,000 licenses would be purchased.

This is an expensive proposition and leads to some parts of the organization using one version of software (those with money would have the latest version) while others, who lack funding for replacement software, would be straddled with older versions of the software.

And as we know, at some point there are "compatibility" issues.

A Community College District in Los Angeles is using a different approach to its software needs.

There, Mircosoft just inked a deal with the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) to deploy its Live@edu online suite for more than 250,000 students and faculty. Live@edu gives educational users access to hosted versions of Exchange and Outlook, SkyDirve online storage and the Office Web productivity suite which includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

One of the requirements of the deal was that Live@edu be accessible through multiple platforms including Apple iPads, iPhones and Google Android devices.

This approach is the future.

San Mateo County should explore this kind of technology option. In my experience organizations have issues supporting different versions of software plus every several years they have the painful experience of paying for replacement costs. Using an online approach would make modern software available organization wide and perhaps reduce the need for help desk support and might even reduce costs.

Read More >

May 11, 2012

The Need for a Mobile Election App

AS ELECTION day approaches, it brings to mind the fact that San Mateo County voters could benefit from a mobile election app. It's not impossible - voters in Louisiana have a new tool to help them prepare for the next election.

The Louisiana election app works on IOS devices and Android operating systems. Users can find out whether they are registered, an address and map of their polling place and the contents of their ballot. Voters can also enter their name or address to access personalized data.

According to a Louisiana Secretary of State official, the app has been downloaded more than 10,000 times to date.

The Secretary of State's office has another mobile app in development to help improve voting access for military and overseas voters. The app will allow voters to register online and receive their absentee ballot electronically. These overseas voters will also be able to mark their ballots online and then return their ballots in the mail.

They're also planning to add subscription-based email notifications to voters, pertaining to Louisiana elections which is aimed at keeping voters engaged in the political process.

May 10, 2012

Fostering Civic Innovation and Engagement in San Mateo County

HOW CONNECTED do you feel to San Mateo County government?

Survey after survey shows that people want to have a better idea of what their elected officials are doing and they want their voices to be  heard.

The intersection of technology, policy and civic engagement is increasingly central to making local governments work for everyone. There are information and innovation gaps between municipalities throughout the sate, and we should be discovering ways to bridge those gaps and provide opportunities for governments to learn from one another and share innovative technologies that have real impact in their communities.

Now there is a statewide project that seeks to make all of that happen.

The California Civic Innovation Project (CCIP) focuses on identifying the best practices to improving service delivery, opening new channels for public voices and bridging the state's digital divides. It promotes innovations in technology, policy and practice that deepen engagement between government and communities throughout the sate. Through research and information-sharing, CCIP plans to build communities of practice within California's local governments.

I think this is an important initiative and it got me thinking.

What steps could San Mateo County take to give residents a better sense of what the Board of Supervisors is doing and how could more public voices be heard using technology?

Here are some ideas to consider:

1. The county could allow for YouTube testimony on the issues

2. The county could publish its checkbook online so people would have a better understanding of where the money comes from and how it's spent - and the site would allow for comments and the sharing of public ideas

3.  The county could sponsor a county "hackathon" aimed at the development of civic apps which residents would find valuable

4.  The county could experiment with online participatory budgeting

5. The county could explore ways to foster people driven viral marketing (and other online strategies) where the community sees a problem and the community harnesses new media tools to try and solve those problems

6. The county could use social media tools to leverage conversations with users of its various services

7. The county could supplement it's popular once a year "Citizens Academy" with an online version so that information sharing would be more widespread and ongoing. A community of interest could be developed of all past graduates and an online forum would provide for ongoing discussions of issues

8. The county could encourage the use of mobile media to promote healthy life style choices for young people

What are your ideas for using technology to help people connect with county government?