Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Reversing the Cycle: Part One

"In a true democracy, legislation becomes law after vigorous debate by well-informed parties who reach agreement for the betterment of the public.
In Albany, it’s different.

"Detailing the projects after the fact doesn't help," said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. "The public deserves to know how their money is being spent before the vote."

"The head of the region’s most powerful business group is calling the budget deal struck in Albany over the weekend a disaster for Long Island."

Seems that we have quite a few folks unhappy with the new New York State budget. Maybe more than usual this year.

This shouldn't come as a surprise as there is greater competition for dwindling resources (at least for the time being). Those in power do what those in power always do (with rare exceptions). Take care of the folks who put them in power.

So what are we poor New Yorkers to do? Accept the inevitable?

Just as with the federal budget, there doesn't seem to be a clear understanding of how "all the various parts" work together to form a just and productive society with maximum liberty and minimal governmental intervention.

Unfortunately, the more "passive" we are the more liberty we lose. Liberty is a "dynamic" active process which requires a good deal of public involvement.

It isn't entirely our fault that we have become "passive." We send "reformers" to Albany and to Washington don't we?

We do, and for the most part they try their best until they are crushed by the status quo and give up or conform.

So, again, what are we to do?

Probably the only way to effect substantive change is with an overhaul of the way we currently do business. Not an easy thing to accomplish when those controlling the purse strings and the legislative process are not prone to change.

It doesn't pay to get angry and accusatory, the situation is what it is and it will take time to change. Progressive, positive change is generally a slow, deliberate process.

The first thing we should require is "normalized" information and analysis across the board that is widely available and in user friendly formats (see previous posts). This will allow everyone to see what is before us in the cold hard light of reason.

The second thing we need to do is shed "organizational labels"and preconceived notions of what is before us. You may believe you are 100% correct on the issues, and indeed you may be. However, your ideas must be subjected to the same intellectual rigor as all other ideas.

The third thing we must do is create an open "dynamic" legislative process (see previous posts). We should use our public and private universities and others to design a "better" system. The "system" will ultimately assist the public in forming fair and impartial public policy.

To change, we must "think" differently and give the public the tools to change.

More in Part Two.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

No Change Without Knowledge: Part I

President Obama correctly assessed the public mood for "change" and indeed has tapped into something broader than that.

Significant change is upon us. It just may not be the change the President anticipates, or for that matter the change any of us anticipate.

Maybe it comes around on or about the beginning of a new century and is somewhat psychological in nature as much as real (we feel we must change because its a new century) or perhaps based on new economic, environmental and political realities. That is for smarter folks than me to debate.

Whether it is technological, scientific, generational, organizational or any other category we may mention, there is a thirst for "something different and presumably better."

So while the president and others have clearly seen that change is imminent and is doing his best to assess what this change means and to "lead" the country is a productive direction, it may not be completely possible unless we "empower" the public with the tools we need rather than stay mired in the politics of division.

Its one thing to say we want a unified and collaborative United States, it is quite another to give the public an easier route to accomplishing this task.

So, whether it is the current debate over executive bonuses at AIG, or how to fix the state budget or how to reform local government or schools or any number of important issues, the public feels somewhat left out of the process and angry and frustrated as a result.

Who do we blame? Who is in charge? Who knows how to fix the problem?

No one. Everyone.

You can not make significant, sustainable progress without an educated and engaged public.

You can not say you want public participation with a straight face and then not give the public the tools (please see the 300 or so preceding posts) to help govern themselves.

People must know the true cost of services or the true outcomes of certain actions.

Knowledge is key to sustainable, positive change.

We now have the technology to "tell the truth."

Do we have the strength to make real change and allow the "truth" to be told?

"Of course, it is not uncommon for complicated legislation to go through Congress with sections that escape detailed initial scrutiny."

Yes, but shouldn't it be?

More in Part II

Monday, March 16, 2009

The future of news on Long Island?

The site has recruited some current and former government officials to write columns, and it will keep some of the popular columnists and bloggers who already work there, in addition to the large number of unpaid local bloggers whose work appears on the site. Hearst also plans to repackage material from its large stable of magazines for the site.

Is this the future of news on Long Island?

It looks a lot like the Long Island Meta-News and Information service we've been promoting on this site.

We would (of course) take it further to include a rotating editorial board and more advanced Web 3.0 features among other features. All detailed in previous posts.

Citizens informing citizens with verifiable information. Interesting concept.

New York Dublin Core Project? One New York Project?

"New York's state government has a sprawling, information-laden empire on the Internet that dwarfs all local government Web operations in the state.With about 400 separate Web sites registered for use by departments, agencies, commissions, authorities and other governmental entities, the state's empire offers a staggering array of information — some aimed at citizens, some at government employees, some at companies doing business in New York. The contents range from simple explanatory guidebooks to hundreds of databases that track everything from liquor-license holders to prison inmates."

It's good that the state is taking steps to "normalize" the operation of all its websites.

But isn't time also to "normalize" the data as well?

Presenting a uniform "look" and functionality to the state website are useful, but creating and platform for allowing the citizens to actually use and analyze the data would be even more helpful.

All of the ideas we have been promoting for "One Long Island" would certainly be applicable to New York State as well.