February 24th: Local Voting, WiFi Map of Santa Cruz, International Open Data Day and more from Civinomics
1. Voting in Santa Cruz: Board of Supervisors, Santa Cruz and Watsonville City Councils
Every two weeks the County Board of Supervisors and the City Councils of our two largest cities meet to deliberate on the issues affecting our community. From land use designations to public projects, what happens on a local level is often more impactful on your daily life than most acts of Congress, despite lacking the same glamour. This week it’s all about public safety and local tax measures as the City of Santa Cruz considers a host of staff options for addressing public safety concerns following the report of the Public Safety Task Force, and the City of Watsonville considers whether or not to move forward with placing a half cent sales tax increase on the June ballot to fund – you guessed it – increased public safety measures. Additionally, the County Board of Supervisors is considering a special election of its own, to levy a parcel tax of $8.50 on improved parcels within the unincorporated areas of the county to fund County Parks and Recreation. Be sure to cast your votes on all three sets of agenda items below.
2. WiFi and Computer Access in Santa Cruz County
One of Civinomics core principles as a company is equity. Equity in terms of equal treatment and equal access. It’s why every Civinomics member is treated exactly the same as any other and every vote weighted equally. It’s also why we go above and beyond to make sure everyone has an opportunity to participate, whether they speak a different language, or don’t have regular access to the internet. Overcoming the digital divide is important to us, and even though we can’t solve the problem of unequal access overnight, we are committed to moving the needle. In that light, we are proud to release a project that one of interns, Melanie Fornes, has been working on, an interactive map detailing the largest ever list of places with access to the internet and/or public computer access in Santa Cruz County.
Now this first list is just a draft, and is intended to be an ongoing project. And, as anyone from the San Lorenzo Valley will tell you, the list is still incomplete, which is why we need your help. If you know of a location that we missed, or a correction, please let us know via email, facebook or twitter. After your edits and additions, we will be sending the map out, both physically and digitally, to various groups, organizations and institutions to spread the word and provide access to these resources. Help us provide more access by sharing this resource with your fellow community members.
3. New Initiative: Pacific Avenue Pedestrian Mall Pilot Project
Ever since the ‘89 earthquake, Santa Cruz residents have nostalgically remembered what Pacific Avenue used to be, a garden mall plenty of open space for pedestrians. And even though the downtown area has long since been rebuilt, with parking spaces lining each side of the street, the idea of a pedestrian mall still percolates in and out of the collective conscience every so often. It happened in late 2010, with the release of the Robert Gibbs retail report, which actually recommended the widening of Pacific Avenue for more car access, but nonetheless opened up the debate for reimaging the corridor. And, with the recent passage of new restrictions on street performers and unlicensed vendors (especially in regards to the loss of the Great Morgani), the idea has has been brought up yet again, but this time as a potential compromise for preserving what has always been seen as classic Santa Cruz electivism.
With that in mind, Civinomics intern Chelsea Clark set to work drafting an initiative proposing a pilot project that would close off roughly half of Pacific Avenue to car traffic once a month for 6 months. The idea is largely based off the insights and contributions of many other local community members, but Chelsea took it upon herself to draft it into a proposal. Be sure and give her some feedback and vote on the initiative below.
4. Tipping Point: International Open Data Day
Over the weekend the Civinomics crew travelled up to the East Bay to participate in a civic hackathon put on by the organization Open Oakland for International Open Data Day. The event brought together over 100 civic-minded hackers, entrepreneurs, and activists, all for the purpose of using technology to improve the government. Some of the projects included a local wiki, a bunch of civic data mapping apps, and even an app to help track the campaign contributions of local elected officials. All and all the experience was great because it allowed us to see what other like minded people were working on, and get feedback on our own projects. No doubt it won’t be our last civic hackathon, nor our last foray into the larger Bay Area. Read Russell Sterten’s event recap below.
5. Weekly Civic Hack Night
For those of you who haven’t heard yet, every Wednesday evening in Santa Cruz is Civic Hack Night, where we invite local developers, concerned citizens, and Civinomics members to meet up over pizza, work on projects and share ideas for improving their community. Last week we saw a couple of new faces, but we would definitely like to see more! In a similar vein as civic hack nights in other cities (see San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose), our hack nights hope to blend together the talents, knowledge, and experience of as many people as possible to better address communal problems and build effective relationships. Our end goal is to begin inviting local elected officials and city/county staff to give presentations on problems that they themselves are dealing with, in the hopes of bridging the gap between government and the community at large. Click below to learn more and RSVP for the next event.
6. New Features and Bug Fixes
The development team continues to work on improving the new activity feed features. Later this week, you’ll be able to choose to view all the recent activity, only the activity of the people, workshops and initiatives you follow, or all the activity in your county.
Developers are also working to improve system performance and squash bugs, and a move is afoot to bring out the next version of the Civinomics Apple iOS app so our more mobile members can enjoy these upgrades on their iPhones.
As always, if you have comments or feature requests, please post them in the How Can We Improve Civinomics workshop.