Live Here - the PBS interview

A couple of weeks ago, Panhandle PBS interviewed me for a longer, more in-depth discussion about the Amarillo City Council Place 4 runoff election. Click here for the full interview.

I can't embed the video, so I can't add links to timecode. If you're interested in what we had to talk about, here's the list of topics:

Why run for city office? 00:14

What qualifies you to lead Amarillo into the future? 01:55

What is the city's major infrastructure shortcoming? 04:07

On the Commerce Building and the FBI investigation. 07:44

On how the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation operates. 13:00

On the Multi-Purpose Event Venue and Downtown. 16:56

On City Manager Jarrett Atkinson's performance. 20:45

On Single Member Districts. 23:22

What have you learned about yourself during this campaign? 25:57

Building for the Future

There's a place called Tech Shop that started a few years ago in Menlo Park, California, smack in the middle of Silicon Valley. It had a single mission: build a place with equipment and tools so people, particularly students, can create and learn. This is what the Tech Shop website says about itself:

TechShop is a playground for creativity. Part fabrication and prototyping studio, part hackerspace and part learning center, TechShop provides access to over $1 million worth of professional equipment and software. We offer comprehensive instruction and expert staff to ensure you have a safe, meaningful and rewarding experience. Most importantly, at TechShop you can explore the world of making in a collaborative and creative environment.

We live in an information economy - or a knowledge economy if you prefer. Tech Shop is a good example of not just a place to hang out and built toys, but it's a place that serves as an incubator for new technological ideas. 

I've talked to many, many people who have ideas for apps or for interesting hardware, but they have no idea how to start. So let's put our heads together, the city, Amarillo College, West Texas A&M. These are powerful forces, grand partnerships that can build the right direction for the future. We can build a Tech Shop for all of us, a place that offers the keys to unlocking the 'how' behind the idea. 

Every day I spend an hour teaching a technology class to a handful of high school kids. I do it because I want them to understand they can control technology and not just consume it. I want them to become makers for the future.

I want this for Amarillo too. I don't want to hear what we can't do. I've heard that enough.

I want to start with what we CAN do.

Tech jobs are high-paying jobs, and tech companies are driving the world. We're no longer limited by geography, only by attitude.  

Can one seat on the Amarillo city council actually start getting us to that future? Can one seat start driving the vision?

The answer is exactly why I'm running.

Governmental Transparency

Transparency seems to be The Word these days, particularly in this current Amarillo city council election. Transparency itself, though, is meaningless without accessibility. If you can't understand what you're getting, it's a pointless endeavor. 

I've talked during the campaign about using technology to make the city's budgets easy-to-understand, accessible, and trustworthy. Before I get to that, let's take a look at what the city currently describes as transparent. 

From the city's website, you have your choice of looking at the Popular Annual Financial Report, the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, and the full Budget. Each one of these links will take you to a PDF document that you'll have to download. But here's the rub: the Comprehensive Annual Report is almost 40 MB large. The Popular Report is 42.9 MB. The full budget is a whopping 73 MB!

For those of you who don't care about megabyte file sizes, let's just say that's a load of information to download and sift through, especially if you're only interested in how much we spend on parks, or you're just curious about how many animals the city euthanizes every month . You get the whole enchilada when all you're really asking for is a chip with a little salsa.

The budget is extremely detailed, and it's worthwhile for any Amarillo citizen to grab it and try to read it. You'll see pages like this:

  (I've made this intentionally small to squeeze it here, but you get my point. You can read the full and legible version in the city budget.)

 

(I've made this intentionally small to squeeze it here, but you get my point. You can read the full and legible version in the city budget.)

Yes, right. It's transparency at its finest.

I want to change this. Instead of Texas-sized PDF documents, which are unwieldy to use even on the newest, big foot-sized iPhone, I want to make data something you can use. I want Amarillo to be a flagship city in the country to truly embrace transparent budgets. Take a look at this:

This is from Cook County, and it's based on the Open City apps project. For those of you technically curious, here is the GitHub repository. Open City apps is an open source software project. This means the code is free.

If I can show the city's data in a format that you can use and you can explore, it'll answer so many of the questions people have had so far during this campaign: how much did we pay Coca-Cola? How much did the city spend on the Commerce Building? (And I mean total cost and not just the building purchase.) How much has the city already spend on infrastructure for the stadium-hotel-parking garage plan? 

No more ambiguity. No more misinformation. I want transparent, understandable, concise data. 

When the people know the facts, power returns to the people.

What I've learned on the campaign trail

The best part of running for City Council is talking to people. It's cliché but true. 

Campaigns put you into this weird little bubble, a strange place where your daily conversations are from people around you, nudging, pointing, helping. And you can't run a campaign without them, because doing this on your own, well, that's a path to insanity.

Outside that bubble, in the real world, are the people who just want someone to hear them.

These are the people who can't make it to meetings because they're working. They don't write letters to the editor because they're busy. They don't post comments online because they overwhelmed with rowdy kids or late dinners or broken cars. 

But they have opinions and aspirations and hopes, and when you knock on their doors during a campaign they'll tell you all about them.

This is where wisdom lies. I certainly have definitive ideas of where Amarillo needs to go and what we can build to make us vital and strong and wonderful. When I listen to these people, people who are kind and generous with their time and passionate about their stories, I understand there's a deeper desire of every single person I've talked to. 

People in Amarillo want growth. They want better restaurants. They want things to do. They want to boast about how living here is terrific.

But they also want a clean city, roads that don't fall apart, safety. They want to live where their city handles its business professionally, quickly, and almost invisibly. 

Almost every single person has told me they don't want to go to city council meetings. They expect the people they vote for to just take care of it.

This is the wisdom from the campaign trail. People don't want lectures. They want someone to hear them and then get to work.

I'm ready for that work.