09/15/2011 by Caroline Vance

Common sense helps move California forward


Dakin Sloss (L), CEO and Evan Storm, Research Director of California Common Sense

Mention of the dysfunctions and malfunctions of California state government prompted chuckles from the audience at The Commonwealth Club on Thursday, at a panel discussion on government openness and accountability.

The audience seemed well versed in the Golden State’s trials and tribulations and were eager to hear how government might be held to a higher standard.

Panelist Dakin Sloss, executive director of CA Common Sense (CACS), detailed his organization’s plans to open government finances to the public, establish transparency portals that lead to “data discourse,” and ultimately create a grassroots movement of young people working to fix government.

CACS has created a transparency portal to shed light on government fiscal practices. Only 18 months ago a group of Stanford students and alumni came together and decided to use their technology skills and Silicon Valley analytics to display government financial data in an accessible format to the public.

Some of the challenges that the student upstarts quickly faced was the sheer number of entities that existed within the state’s executive branch (approx 3,800) and the lack of information technology in state government.

Despite these challenges, CACS has seen success, including being approached by the State of Georgia to compare spending across counties and the US House of Representatives requesting data review of job training programs.

CACS is a non-partisan organization that has received support from former elected officials on both sides of the aisle, including: Willie Brown, George Shultz, Steve Westley, Duf Sundheim, and Joe Nation.

Of particular interest to the crowd at the Commonwealth Club was the unveiling of CCS and Phil Ting’s Reset San Francisco tool to explore, analyze, and visualize city government data. It provides transparency for taxpayers to see how their money is spent.

Reset San Francisco sponsor Phil Ting said, “It is exciting to see students creating such powerful tools. We can already see important facts about San Francisco being revealed by the transparency portal. I am optimistic that this is just the beginning. Open government can be a powerful catalyst for smarter policy and further citizen engagement, both of which are crucial to the future of our city.”

California Forward has been working to correct our state’s current course and restore trust in the process by helping restore openness, accountability, and results at both the state and local levels of government.

Caroline Vance is on the CA Fwd regional partnerships team

Categories: Selected Blog Posts, Accountability, Transparency

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