Random Citizen

building engagement and empowerment in our communities

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#MakerMonday - It’s All About #HNLMKF!

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Honolulu Mini Maker Faire is going to be happening on Saturday, March 15, Noon-5pm at The Sullivan Center at ‘Iolani School.  As far as I know, the idea for Honolulu’s own Maker Faire began at Unconferenz 2013.  From that one session, local makers took it upon themselves to start organizing and trying to make it a reality, and now it’s finally here!  It’s free so register to attend now.

I think most of the maker booths will be on the third floor of the Sullivan Center in the flexible project space and short workshops going on in the seminar room.  I hear Hawaii VR was pretty popular at GeekDay at LCC and it’s always fun to see what Ka’i, Jessie and the rest of the crew are doing.  Also i’m looking forward to the Kickstarter workshop towards the end of the day.

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On the first floor, expect to see more of the outdoorsy kind of stuff like blacksmithing, drone flying, and a wacky WiMax attena array.  Also at the senior benches I believe there will be soldering workshops going on and maybe conductive paint projects from HiCapacity.

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And if that wasn’t enough, there will be short guided tours of the Sullivan Center itself throughout the day.  It truly is an awesome building and great site for Honolulu’s first Mini Maker Faire.

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all images from Honolulu Mini Maker Faire and ‘Iolani School respectively

Filed under HNLMKF make honolulu

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#CivicSunday - @CommonCauseHI Upcoming Events

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I work with t-shirts most of the time, and I thought this quote was a cool reminder to us that our democracy is not a spectator sport (i’ll save the democracy vs. republic debate for later).  If you want to help define what the public good is, and what issues we—as a society—should be focusing on, then participation is key.

Common Cause Hawaii is breaking down some of those barriers to participation with a few events in March and April:

  • Advocacy 102 Workshops Parts 1 & 2, in the first week of March and second week of April respectively, will dive deeper into the legislative process beyond just bills and testimony.  We will learn about The Order of the Day, Floor Readings in Part 1, and about the mysterious Conference Committees in Part 2.  I believe folks from our Public Access Room at the Hawaii State Capitol are helping to put these two workshops on.
  • Sunshine Week event: Media, Transparency, and Politics will be coming up mid March and will feature former FCC Commissioner, Michael Copps, and a few local journalists who will discuss issues at the national and local levels.
  • Civic*Celerator Pre-Demo Day at the end of March and the actual Demo Day mid April will showcase applications by local participants built with OpenData from the Hawaii State Campaign Spending Commission.  This is an awesome example of how civic engagement does not have to only revolve around advocacy, but that anything we do to help make things better/easier for the public counts as well.

The first event, Advocacy 102 Workshop: Part 1 is Tuesday March 4, 6:00-7:00pm at the Box Jelly.  See you there!

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#StartupSaturday - #HIGrowth Entrepreneur’s Day

I’m pretty excited for #HIGrowth Entrepreneur’s Day at the Hawaii State Capitol Building Wednesday, March 5, 2014 from 10am-2pm.  3 floors of entrepreneurs, support agencies and private organizations demonstrating their importance to Hawaii’s present and future economic well being.

Some of the usual startup suspects will be there like Blue Startups, Startup Weekend Honolulu, Energy Excelerator, and Box Jelly, and it looks like they’ve tried to group tables by industry, or support service.  People even just thinking about starting a business would benefit greatly from this event.

We will have our own table on the 2nd floor for RailsBridge Hawaii so if you are there, stop by and talk story and learn how we will be bringing more diversity to our local tech industry and building #HIGrowth from the bottom up.

Filed under HIGrowth startupparadise HearMeRoR railsbridge

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Wonk Wednesday - Publicly Funded Elections

Admittedly, I’m not as wonky as I’d like to be, but we all gotta start somewhere.

Today,  I’m looking at HB1481/SB1352 which are companion bills focusing on publicly funded elections in the State of Hawaii.  I know practically nothing about publicly funded elections, so before I dive into the meat of the bills I’ll do some quick research on google.

I found this awesome FAQ about HB1481 itself on Common Cause Hawaii's site that explains public funding:

How does public funding work?
Political candidates can attempt to qualify for public funds by raising a set number of small contributions from registered voters who live within the district for which they’re running for. Those small contributions also need to be accompanied with a signature of support. By opting into this voluntary program, participating political candidates agree to not accept contributions from any other private donors, nor use any of their own money. This allows candidates to spend more time with people in their districts, and less time courting large donors.

 To qualify, House candidates would need 250 signatures with an accompanying $5.00.

More digging on google led me to find that recently Arizona’s Supreme Court struck down a provision of their Clean Elections law.  The Daily Kos explains:

"Arizona’s law allowed qualified candidates to choose to forego private fundraising and instead receive an initial grant and supplemental "fair fight" matching funds from the state to have an opportunity to campaign and get the message out depending on what the opposition was spending.  The challenge was raised by past and future Arizona candidates complaining that the matching funds provision severely burdened their exercise of protected political speech by punishing them for making, receiving, or spending campaign contributions."

Chief Justice Roberts writes in his Opinion:

This sort of “beggar thy neighbor” approach to free speech—“restrict[ing] the speech of some elements of our society in order to enhance the relative voice of others”—is “wholly foreign to the First Amendment .” Id.,at 48–49. 7

We have rejected government efforts to increase the speech of some at the expense of others outside the campaign finance context. In Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo 418 U. S. 241,244258 (1974) , we held unconstitutional a Florida law that required any newspaper assailing a political candidate’s character to allow that candidate to print a reply. We have explained that while the statute in that case “purported to advance free discussion, … its effect was to deter newspapers from speaking out in the first instance” because it “penalized the newspaper’s own expression.” Pacific Gas & Elec. Co. v. Public Util. Comm’n of Cal. 475 U. S. 110 (1986) (plurality opinion).

The NCSL, National Conference of State Legislatures, is also a great resource when doing this sort of preliminary research.  Here, I am able to get a great overview of how the different States are approaching the idea of public financing of campaigns.  Some of the different methods used are direct funding of candidates, matching grants, tax incentives for citizens, or fixed subsidies.

Subsidizing Democracy, a new book by Professor Michael G. Miller, takes a look at this very issue.  Luckily—or not if you don’t like C-Span—I found this panelist discussion that Professor Miller participated in pretty interesting.  Feel free to read through some of his research.

Also I just wanted to add Larry Lessig’s TED talk.  Although it focuses on national elections, I think it applies—albeit on a smaller scale—towards elections at the State level.

A lot of reading to go through.  Welcome to my world.

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TEDx Tuesday - An App That Could Change Your Vote

"It’s often the case that rhetoric will supercede logic when our public institutions are so complex that the ordinary citizen doesn’t have the hours in the day to understand them.  And the consequence of all this is that we as citizens unknowingly advocate for things against our own interest." - Nikita Bier at TEDxBoston

Nikita’s TEDx talk showcases some of the powerful tools that can be built with open data and how those tools can then be leveraged by the citizenry.  Politify, or apps like it, can be used by citizens to make better financial decisions when it comes to voting and it would be interesting to see what people’s thresholds are between ideology and financial impact.  Outline seems like an awesome tool that democratizes policy making (but I think they are in beta now).  It reminds me of the empowered feeling I got when the Reapportionment Commission of Hawaii opened up the GIS redistricting tool for regular citizens to make and submit their own redistricting maps (but you need to ask Royce Jones what they actually used because it’s been a few years and I forgot).

This talk also reminded me of our last Kanu Fellows meeting.  We were reflecting on a campaign to save the white recycling bins at elementary schools because the City of Honolulu was debating whether or not to continue allocating $2.4 million to this community recycling project.  Olin Lagon, Kanu Hawaii's Executive Director, commented that saving those bins might not have been in the best interest of the people and that perhaps reallocating those funds to increasing curbside pickup may have been the better way to go.  Outline would have been a good way to see the first order impact of that policy decision.

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Maker Monday - Conductive Paint + Electronics 101 (Again)

HiCapacity is holding another Conductive Paint + Electronics 101 workshop Thursday Feb 6, 2014 from 7-9pm at their space in the back of The Box Jelly.  I missed this workshop the first time around so I’m glad they are bringing it back again.  What’s neat is that they are using conductive paint so there are no wires or soldering involved.  Definitely an awesome electronics intro project.

The workshop itself is free, but there is a materials cost of $5 for the kit.  You can sign up on Eventbrite, but they aren’t accepting online payments, so make sure you bring your Abraham Lincoln when you come.  Last I checked there were 9 spots left for the workshop.

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Civic Sunday - Civic Hacking of Hawaii Campaign Spending Data

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Application developers, designers, data gurus, mapping geniuses, teachers, social workers, government employees, and engaged citizens came together at Civic*Celerator's Kickoff Event at `Iolani School’s Sullivan Center for a Common Cause to Code for Hawaii and build civic apps with Hawaii Open Data from Hawaii’s Campaign Spending Commission.

Although I showed up halfway through the event, I was lucky to come in just when people were starting to generate ideas for apps or data visualizations of campaign spending data they wanted to see.  Here are some of the ones I thought were cool:
  • Maps to visualize where campaign contributions are coming from and how much of it comes from inside the district vs. outside the district
  • Taking a look at fundraisers and lobbying contributions during session
  • Checking if there is any “pay to play” going on (contributions for contracts)

After coming up with all those ideas we took a small break to mingle and talk over the things we wanted to focus on.  Groups slowly formed up as people gravitated to projects that were aligned with their interest.

I immediately joined Jason Axelson’s Primer team.  We will be creating a document that tells us basic information and about the data we will be working with.  Hopefully it will be a nice starting point for the other groups to work from.  We have plans to complete as much of it as possible before the next  workshop.

Kyle Oba, and his HIdentify team, have already downloaded from data.hawaii.gov the almost 82,000 records that they need to begin their project.  They will be creating unique aliases for contributors that may appear multiple times due to spelling inconsistencies or address changes in order to build a better picture of those contributors.  Other teams will likely build off of this effort as well.

Which brings up an interesting point about these Civic*Celerator Workshops.  Although it has the appearance of a Hackathon—with eager minds coming together to work on new ideas in different teams to build awesome applications—Civic*Celerator is extremely collaborative and not really competitive.  And instead of being just 24 hours or a weekend long, it is put together in a series of workshops over a few months so that people have more time to explore the data and come up with questions worth answering in order to build better applications and visualizations that are truly useful and more user friendly than rows and columns of text and numbers.

In the end, we will have a clearer view of where campaign money is coming from and also how it is being spent and to use this information to make better choices when it comes time to vote.