This past week was "International Sunshine Week," a national initiative dedicated to educating the American public about the importance of open and accessible government.
Here in Oakland, we have done a lot in recent days to advance the cause of open local government, so we too had much to celebrate last week. Earlier this month, the Oakland City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that I co-authored with City Attorney Barbara Parker and City Clerk LaTonda Simmons that will improve political transparency in Oakland by requiring electronic filing of campaign finance reports for Oakland political candidates, political action committees and ballot measure committees.
Before the passage of this ordinance, when a campaign committee filed a paper version of a campaign finance document, it could take days for it to be approved by city staff and appear on the city's website for review by the public. Now, with these new electronic filing requirements, those reports will appear online immediately after filing. Now Oakland residents will have easier access to the information they deserve. For the first time, it will be easy for the public to search for campaign donors and analyze campaign finance data so they can get a full understanding of who is funding campaigns in Oakland.
The city clerk will provide free public trainings on how to use the online filing system as well as information about access to free public computers so that the new requirements don't add any barriers to participation by the public.
Recently, the city of Oakland was also one of 10 cities in the nation selected to partner with Code for America, which matches skilled technologists with partner cities for one year to help increase citizen engagement and solve municipal problems. As participants in the 2013 Code for America fellowship, Oakland will develop easier access to public information and data, such as crime reports, liquor licenses, blighted property records, city budget information, tax records and more. As a result of our work with Code for America, we will make Oakland's government more open, modern and efficient.
In this digital age, there is no excuse for local governments not to be open and accessible to all. By making available the tools to harness modern technology and innovation, we will more fully empower the people of Oakland to work together to solve problems that affect all of us. And that's something to celebrate.
In honor of International Sunshine Week, consider supporting some of our local good government organizations such as the League of Women Voters of Oakland, California Forward and the new civic hacking group Open Oakland.
In order for government to be truly open, I need to hear from you about your ideas for Oakland. Please visit my website, www.LibbySchaaf.com, where you can sign up for my bimonthly newsletter to stay informed. You can also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 510-238-7004. Let the sun shine on your government!
Libby Schaaf is the Oakland City Council's District 4 representative.