Friday, November 14, 2014

Roseland Village Shopping Center Transformation


For several decades, Santa Rosans have talked annexing the lands to their south.  Mostly, it was about gaining sales tax from businesses which operate in County territory, or vacant land which could be developed.  They did the former, and were opposed by environmentalists like me when they tried to do the latter.  Urban sprawl, you all.   Left out of the conversation was the housing there built under county standards.  Cheap enough for lower rents, nothing there for the City to covet.  The island of poor residents fighting for their survival is now called Roseland.

Last night, I attended a meeting on the future of Roseland’s defunct shopping center, held at Roseland Elementary School.  Against the background of plans by the City to finally discuss annexation, the ghost of redevelopment past is rising up to work its magic on a dying business property.  Those in attendance represented a cross-section of residents and involved city and county organizational staff.  Supervisor Efren Carillo and Kirsten Larsen (County Comm Development Commission) hosted the discussion, which attempted to elicit the insights of participants around the current and immediate future uses of the Roseland Shopping Center as demolition continues.

After providing background and an update on the demolition, the group divided into five tables in front of large display photos of the site.  Their assignment was to agree on the current use of the site, what they thought the activities would become once the buildings were demolished, and what they see as the most useful activity design might be for the interim period while the long-term design of the site is being developed.  Post-It notes were used to reflect the ideas, and each group then reported out at the end of the meeting on their results.

I’ve been to many meetings like this, and have groaned about how few ever learn what was offered, and how quickly the guidance info disappears into bureaucratic files.  But I had an idea. 

I used my IPod Touch to take photos of the Post-It covered display photos.  When I got home, I used Google’s latest map development tool to overlay the info onto an online Google Map.  This morning, I sent the internet address of the map to the County staff with permission to use it as this wish.   If the microphones they were using for amplification and translation had digital audio recorders in them, it would have been even more cool to link participant voices to the map.

Friends ask what drives my passion for technology improvements.  The usual answer is that I see it helping us work more effectively together.  Like this.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Santa Rosa Capital Improvements Map


Next Tuesday, the Santa Rosa City Council will be asked to adopt an update to its Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Plan.  The report summarizes what was accomplished last spring, how the financing is going, and what is left to be accomplished.  Though the report indicates that the City's website contains detailed information on the CIP, it's not easy to find it.  So I created a Google Map online to help all of us learn about the projects.

After I published the post, I found the City's GIS Division webpage had a similar CIP map.  Staff use this map to keep themselves current on the projects.

It was a useful learning experience for me to absorb all of the information about CIP projects, but it also confirmed my belief that much more work is needed to better publicize the work of the city.  Future quarterly update reports on the CIP should contain a link from the agenda to the City's Map.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Letter to S.R. Open Government Task Force


Thanks for inviting me to send to you some suggestions I’ve made earlier to your Open Government Task Force.  Because they were contributed through suggested edits to a list of OGTF meeting notes from early meetings, they could easily have been overlooked.  Or they may have been confusing, and hard to incorporate into a final list.

In any case, thanks for letting me try to be clear.

Create integrated public information content which resides on calendars, maps, video channels, and blogs contributed by the city and its partners. Organize the content from a strong base of trusted suppliers and managers who are committed to maintaining a useful and vibrant guide to the City’s public services and activities.

All over the City, well-meaning people spend many hours each day trying to inform our residents about opportunities to become involved.  Government, nonprofits, and business associations all seek the counsel of community members to guide public policy and issues.  Most of the required and official notices are published in scattered sites where few actually notice, and near the end of the time when its perceived that public contributions make any difference.  While citizens complain about not learning early and well enough, few processes exist to easily recruit early and collaborative participation.

1.  Integrate public, nonprofit, and business association meeting announcements into a master calendar, with links to agendas, background videos, and contact personnel.
2.  Make use of ongoing video city council segments which highlight city processes and services to develop an online Citizens Academy where residents can learn more about their City.
3.  Videotape every meeting held to further public business using low-cost Internet web-streaming and distributing by requiring wifi at all meeting locations, and posting links to the content produced on collaborative calendars, maps, video channels, websites, and Citizen Academy training websites.
4.  Make better use of educational institution students and curriculum to improve the capabilities of the city to engage the community, and to prepare young residents for lives of civic participation.  High School, junior college, and SSU digital media classes should become strong partners with the City in its efforts to effect change in civic participation.

I am working on specific tools and resources within Santa Rosa Together’s own calendars, maps, video channels, and blogs which demonstrate the recommendations outlined above.  I am also working with Santa Rosa City staff in the IT and City Manager’s Office to bring about incremental changes consisted with these recommendations.  What is needed is a clear and powerful endorsement by the Open Government Task Force of the direction and goals indicate above.  Only that will proved the City with measurable objectives and a strong focus for change.

These suggestion are based on my belief that our citizens would become more engaged with their city if they knew more about what was happening, and could make use of a well-organized system of public information organized within the City’s overview.  I hope these suggestions prove helpful to your work.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Gregory Fearon
(707) 546-5771
2040 Elizabeth Way

Santa Rosa

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mobile Apps for Civic Engagement


Here is my collection of articles and website descriptions of interesting mobile phone apps which assist civic engagement.

City Voice
Honolulu Answers
Jail Population Management Dashboard
Ohana API
The Daily Brief
To the Trails
Aunt Bertha
Civic Insight
Local Data
Open Counter
Where's My SchoolBus ?
Family Assessment Form
Measured Voice

To learn more about Code For America's Initiatives, visit Initiatives


Santa Rosa Neighborhood Public Notice Mapping


Here is an example of what anyone can produce using Google Engine Pro, and the information usually published on local government websites.

Santa Rosa Neighborhood Public Notices

Santa Rosa Together Speaker Series

Santa Rosa Together members,

There are two more big events taking place in the next month that will help us move towards our goals. 

1.  Monday, September 29:  Open Government Task Force community forum; The City of Santa Rosa, Open Government Task Force, will hold an Open Government Forum at the Church of the One Tree, 492 Sonoma Avenue, 6 - 8 PM on the 29th.  This forum will give us a chance to share ideas on how we can make our government more transparent and accessible. Our SRT Government Action Team is working with and has provided input to the Task Force. See attached flyer for details.

2,  Monday, October 6: Meeting with new City Manager: The Santa Rosa Neighborhood Alliance and Santa Rosa Together will co-sponsor a meeting to meet and talk with Sean McGlynn, Santa Rosa's new city manager.  Thanks to SRNA for taking the initiative to set up this important meeting. The meeting will take place in the evening on October 6. We will let you know the exact time and place as soon as they are determined.  This will be a great opportunity for us to talk with the new city manager and build a better partnership with the city.

Who is Santa Rosa Together? A broad non-partisan coalition of community leaders working to get more people engaged, give everyone a voice and role, and improve the way we work together in Santa Rosa.