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Tonight, a Mayoral Debate on Open Government in San Francisco

BY Nick Judd | Thursday, June 16 2011

Thursday night in San Francisco, Lotus Development Corporation founder Mitch Kapor will moderate a discussion about open government, civic engagement, technology and innovation between some of the leading candidates for mayor of the City by the Bay.

Beginning at 5:45 p.m. Pacific Standard Time and held at the headquarters of WordPress developers Automatic, the sold-out event, SFOpen, will be streamed live over at GovFresh. It's the kickoff to a series of summer events about urbanism and technology, but the crescendo of a push to put open government ideas — that 21st-century governments must do a better job of communicating what they are doing and involve citizens in deciding what to do — on the map for the San Francisco mayoral campaign. Ahead of this debate, GovFresh founder Luke Fretwell has been advocating, organizing and cajoling mayoral candidates to sign a pledge to use technology to make San Francisco's government more transparent, to involve more people in making decisions, and to better collaborate with people outside government if elected. He's also hosting blog posts on open government and transparency by candidates Phil Ting and Joanna Rees, and video of interviews with candidates on the subject.

Tonight's questions will come from a crowdsourced list where the lead questions are now about participatory budgeting, a process through which some portion of a government budget is allocated by popular vote; improving the performance of San Francisco's MUNI municipal transit system; and the digital divide, the difference in access to the Internet between people of differing race and class.

In part because of the unusual system the people of San Francisco will use to decide their next mayor, the race is still wide open. The online outlet SF Appeal notes that since voters will indicate second and third choices for mayor as well as their top pick, candidates will likely be cordial with one another — in the hopes of staying likeable with enough voters to earn runner-up votes even if they are not top picks.

The event is sponsored by Change.org, GovFresh and the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, SF Appeal notes.

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