We want to create tools to create a truly open government.
These tools need to be open source.
And open the doors to civic engagement.
These are web applications we would like to develop for local governments to use. They would be free to use and the source code could be examined by the public.
The Your Government Platform
A website that that lists all elected offices in a jurisdiction:
Lists the position, jurisdiction, responsibilities, job description, requirements for election, for recall, pay, current officeholder, term limits, number of employees that can be hired/fired by that person and their names and contact info. If it is a voting position, a list of how they voted on each item, and the size of the budget they manage. It should also identify when the next election will be and a list of people who have expressed interest in running.
The Robert’s Rules Open Government Platform
A site that transparently manages public agendas and meetings. It would be fully American Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant and catalogue all legislation and recording of votes taken. Each issue would be categorized according to specific type of expenditures: capital improvements, maintenance, upgrades of existing services, essential services, payroll, tax breaks, economic development, etc.
Public comment would be enabled on all items. Any votes on bids through “The Public Bidding System Platform” will clearly identify which company is getting contracts and their interests via political donations will be connected by “The Campaign Finance Platform”
The Public Bidding System Platform
A site for public bids, that is classified by NAICS codes, much like the Fed’s SAM platform. This site would include all Request for Proposals (RFP) and have real-time comments and discussion of clauses. All bidders would have public profiles that includes their political contributions. The bid rubrics must be posted at the time of the RFP along with an anonymous list of scorers and their qualifications to evaluate.
All bids will be public, open, and available for public scrutiny.
All awarded contracts will be updated with invoices and payments to be displayed publicly.
The Candidate Platform
A platform for candidates to run for office, pre-configured for each office, complete with information from the “Your Government Platform,” where candidates can post their bio, their main issues, collect donations in real time, solicit volunteers, and track voter contact.
Instead of having the data controlled by a combination of public (boards of elections) and private organizations (Nationbuilder, voter vault, etc) our platform would include canvassing tools and communication tools so that each new candidate doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel or go broke buying data and technology.
It will track their votes once they are elected and also keep a running total of their donations via The Campaign Finance Platform.
The Candidate Comparison Platform
Built much like either OK Cupid or I Side With, this site would have a series of questions where both the candidates and the voters can answer questions and find out who their closest ideological match is. With each question you can answer how you would vote, how you want your candidate to vote and how important this is to you. Questions are classified by categories that match the “The Roberts Rules Open Government Platform” so that once in office, you can continue to monitor if the candidate aligns with their promises.
The Campaign Finance Platform
The major problem with campaign finance in America is that it’s self-reported by candidates and monitored by partisan political appointees. It fails on so many points that the FEC database has to be re-interpreted by Open Secrets to actually provide any valuable insight. The entire platform can be replaced at all levels with a real time, calibrated system that makes the process transparent and adds a layer of accountability.
It would require each donor to be registered and verified in the system, much the same way that Facebook started requiring candidates to register to run ads. Not only must you identify your employer, but, your employer must be registered with the “The Public Bidding System Platform” to help quickly identify conflicts of interest when bids come up in the “The Roberts Rules Open Government Platform”
All candidates will have an account and be given both a debit card for paying for services, a payroll account for paying staff, and a line of credit for their campaign based on the pay of the position for one year. Since voting will be ranked choice, candidates will be responsible to pay back any expenditures against the line if they don’t receive at least 10% of the vote.
All political ads on behalf of the candidate will be hosted on this platform- as well as the “The Candidate Platform” for public review.
As a 501(c)3, we do not engage in direct lobbying and we limit our advocacy for particular policies. However, there are some policies we are interested in reforming, which we will study and provide resources for those who will directly enact change.
Vote by Mail
It’s critical that people have time to research their choices and voting by mail allows this. Coupled with voter information systems, the voter can take the time to fully research the candidates and their positions. Ideally there would only be one election day per year—the 4th of July. November elections compete with critical 4th quarter commercial advertising budgets, which increases costs. The cold, inclement weather in much of the north further discourages voters and presents unforeseen barriers to voting.
Open Meetings and Sunshine Laws Reform
Freedom of information is not equally guaranteed in all fifty states. Ohio never actually removes any public official from office for violations, while Florida does often. We plan on studying best practices among all fifty states and the Federal Government. We believe that all levels of government should have elected ombudsmen who will be responsible to advocate for citizens to ensure these rules are adhered to. Freedom of information isn’t guaranteed by the Constitution, but it should be.
The primary reason we are advocating for open-source tools to make government more accessible is because we strongly believe in an open government. Considering our current technological capabilities, going through the process of complying with public records requests does not fulfill the promise of an open government. Public records should be accessible by the public through searchable, ADA compliant databases that are provided free of charge through the internet. This includes tax information, so individuals can easily look up to see how much they are taxed and how much neighboring jurisdictions are taxed. If a corporation receives tax abatement, it should be noted and the authorization for the tax abatement and those responsible should be linked to (along with any donor connections).
Certifications to Prove Candidates are Qualified
To be president of the United States you just have to be born in this country, be 35, and get on the ballot in all fifty states.
No tests, no certifications, no preparation.
On the one hand, we do not want to require too many credentials to run for public office as it would create an aristocratic ruling class. On the other hand, it would be great if the county treasurer were actually required to know a thing or two about finances. On LinkedIn, you can flout certifications to potential employers and they even provide training and tests to obtain certifications. We should provide the same thing for politicians so they can boast about their certifications when seeking office. Courses in public finance, bid evaluations, HR for public office, labor law, Roberts rules, sunshine laws, etc. Khan Academy can teach kids chemistry online. It shouldn’t be too difficult to teach a political candidate the fundamentals of the office they seek.