City of Manor, TX

What happened to Manor?

Ines Mergel asks a great question about a government 2.0 icon emblematic of the potential local open government had in its nascent heyday way back two years ago.

Voter ID and Civic Innovation

Since 2008, there has been a wave of voting law changes that impose barriers to the ballot box. Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a veteran of “Bloody Sunday,” called the new laws “the most concerted effort to restrict the right to vote since before the Voting Rights Act.”

The right to vote is being chiseled away by voter ID laws that require voters to show government-issued photo ID in order to vote.

Cost of Freedom Project Logo

In December, the Department of Justice blocked South Carolina’s voter ID law on the grounds it would make it harder for minorities to vote in violation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Mississippi and Texas voting ID laws also must be pre-cleared but Texas is not waiting. The Lone Star State filed a federal lawsuit in an effort to speed up a decision.

Strict photo ID requirements will be in place in at least five states – Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Tennessee and Wisconsin — In November. With Election Day less than nine months away, voters without an official photo ID cannot wait for the challenges to play out at the Justice Department and in the courts.

In Wisconsin, for instance, voters must navigate “The 4 Proofs.”

I am a founding member of the Election Protection Coalition. Still, looking at the infographic makes my head hurt. More worrisome, it discourages voters from completing the application process. So I presented the problem of TMI (read: disenfranchisement by design) at Random Hacks of Kindness and the Hackathon for Social Good. Citizen programmers developed solutions to quickly provide voters with information on how to get a voter ID.

During Social Week Washington, DC, I gave a demo of the Cost of Freedom web-based app developed by Kin Lane, API Evangelist for CityGrid.

Users in Wisconsin can forget about “The 4 Proofs.” Instead, in four clicks or less, they will be able to access information about the state’s voter ID requirements, how to obtain a certified copy of their birth certificate (the document that’s typically produced to establish one’s identity), and the location, hours and directions to the Office of Vital Records using public transit.

I also gave a live demo of the Cost of Freedom text-based app developed by Jack Aboutboul, Twilio’s API Evangelist. Twilio is making an in-contribution of text message services to promote voter education.

To commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we plan to launch the Cost of Freedom App on April 4, 2012.

I will post regular updates about the Cost of Freedom Project and other initiatives that are using civic innovation to protect the right to vote. The conversation about voter ID also gives us an opportunity to raise awareness about disruptive technologies in the public sector beyond election administration.

For more information, please visit us at Facebook.com/CostofFreedom. You can sign up to receive notice when the Cost of Freedom App is launched. Continue reading

2011 GovFresh Public Servant of the Year: Matthew Esquibel

Fresh off off getting recognized as ‘Public Servant of the Year’ in our 2011 GovFresh Awards, we asked the City of Austin’s Matthew Esquibel, Programmer Analyst Supervisor for Internet/Intranet Web Design in the Office of Communications & Technology Management, to share more about his work.

Gov 2.0 guide to a city makeover

My name is Dustin Haisler and I’m the Assistant City Manager and Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the City of Manor, Texas.  Manor is a small community, located just east of Austin, of approximately 6,500 citizens. More recently, Manor has received a lot press for some of our innovative projects; such as our QR-code program, citizen idea portal, and pothole reporting system.  In fact, we are in such a state of continuous improvement that we even added the word ‘beta’ to our city logo.

Small(town) is beautiful and the manor.govfresh wrap-up

E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful neatly summarizes my beliefs on how society should work and provides the most appropriate slogan for the way I approach much of my life.

‘Small is beautiful’ best describes manor.govfresh, held this past Sept 20-21, in Manor, TX, and exemplifies where I believe we can have the most impact on changing how government works and where the open government community should turn its focus. The theme around manor.govfresh was government and technology, but the underlying premise was learning how we can strengthen community at its most local. So much is discussed at the federal, state and major metropolitan levels that we see small-town America as an after-thought. It’s not sexy, but it’s where change can happen faster and have a more immediate impact on citizens.

My Gov 2.0 Hero: Phil Tate

Manor, Texas has received lots of recognition for the innovative technologies that have come out of it, but many people don’t know all the individuals that are responsible. My role as Assistant City Manager and CIO is to steer the development of emerging technologies in Manor, but the real hero is our City Manager, Phil Tate.

Why government should go beta

In the spirit of innovation, we are happy to announce the launch of the City of Manor in open beta. Manor launched in alpha in March of 1913, and has been operating as such for the last 97 years.

What does open beta mean?