#1 By: davetroy, April 2nd, 2014 16:55
I've come to believe that civics is the key issue here, and no one talks about civics anymore. We have a broken system of local government with a raft of structural issues that need to be addressed, and it's the only way we're going to create fiscal responsibility, and in doing so, achieve social justice.
I've heard it posited that the energy that used to go into civics, good government groups, and even party politics has been rerouted over the last ~40 years into a panoply of do-gooder nonprofits and "mitigation" efforts. This is a hypothesis worth pondering, and we should ask whether we are making this problem better or worse.
So I'll be honest, I'm not too keen on "hacking" Baltimore (though I'm generally supportive of the intentions), I'm interested in fixing the broken structure. That involves things like passing a ballot initiative to require financial and performance audits. It involves exposing spending in an orderly way. It involves putting asset tags on all the stuff the city owns. I'm interested in documenting and ending abuse of police overtime.
I am concerned that in our efforts to mitigate, to hack, to workaround, to fix, to cajole — to mostly effect meaningless incremental change — we fragment and dilute our collective political will and neglect the civic structural problems; we turn "fight the power" into "hack the suck" and let a crew of lackluster bad actors run roughshod over a populace that neither deserves nor can afford to be taken advantage of any further.
To the extent that the "tech community" refuses to claim a meaningful political voice (and I'm not talking about personalities or candidates, I'm talking about developing a deep civic understanding and taking on entrenched power structures) it probably can't expect meaningful outcomes.
I'd strongly advise Hack Baltimore to take on a strong civics component, because this whole "I'll write code, but politics makes me uncomfortable" stance I've seen repeatedly is utter bullshit. Techies need to grow up and take a stand.
#2 By: davetroy, April 2nd, 2014 17:09
So, for example: want to hack the city? Here's a number: 10,000. It's the number of signatures required to amend the city charter. It's also the number of signatures required to convene a committee to rewrite the city charter.
The sky is the limit: what would you do to fix things?
#3 By: Gordon Steen, April 2nd, 2014 17:51
Hack is sexy right now. I was thinking along similar lines about "social". i.e."Social justice", and wondering what happened to "civics". Never took a civics class. Never saw one offered either. Baltimore does have a "Civic Works" and they do great stuff.
So I am for Civic Hack Baltimore. I don't think we'll get a lot of discussion. Let's do it, fix it and not just "Occupy" it. When do we start - 10,000 signatures sounds good to me.
#4 By: Andrew Hazlett, April 3rd, 2014 14:26
My view, to take Clay Shirky out of context, is: Nothing will work, but everything might.
#5 By: Misty Melton, April 3rd, 2014 21:18
What would I do? No idea. I'm too new to this city to have any real inkling of what it needs. I can make guesses, but I don't know Baltimore the way probably most, if not all, of you do. I don't live in the city, and I've only recently (last 4 months or so) been a part of the city through starting the Baltimore chapter of Girl Develop It and becoming involved with various sects of the tech community. I've fallen in love with Baltimore, namely its people, in the past few months, but developing an affinity for a place and wanting to contribute to making it a better place does not qualify me to know where the problems lie or what would be a good starting point.
I'm playing my small role to build on and strengthen community and tech education in the region, but beyond that all I have is a willingness and a desire to contribute wherever and however I can. I'm not afraid of politics, and I don't shy away from having opinions once I have enough data to form them. More importantly though, I know when it's time to listen vs speak. So right now I'm happy to participate in a conversation, but those of you that really know this city and her problems, I'm relying on you to educate me and point me to the key areas I need to educate myself on in order to meaningfully contribute in this arena. I'm in no position to steer the conversation myself just yet or throw out ideas for prioritizing what major changes are needed.
#6 By: Mike Subelsky, April 4th, 2014 10:45
wow what a great attitude to have! welcome. What brought you to Baltimore?
#7 By: Misty Melton, April 4th, 2014 12:16
We moved up this way almost 7 years ago, but I'm down by Annapolis and have had little to do with Baltimore except occasional concerts, social events/field trips or attending a Ravens game once... all touristy inner harbor area stuff. Just wanted to be closer to the coast, (Navy brat who ended up settled inland and missed water), so my husband found a job in DC and we made the move up here.
Being that I'm only 30 minutes from downtown Baltimore, it made the most sense when I decided to bring Girl Develop It and work on tech-ed in the region to start with Baltimore. My husband participated in Startup Weekend back in 2010 and we did GiveCamp that year as well so I had connections made from those as a starting point as well. I had no idea when I started that the people would be so welcoming and... charming.
#8 By: Bill Ferguson, April 9th, 2014 15:29
I think folks underestimate the fact that there are very few rules in the political process. If you have the "votes," you have the power to make change. You get the votes with organized people, organized money, and and organized message that motivates people to act. There's nothing in this city that is unfixable, nothing.
#9 By: Gordon Steen, May 27th, 2014 06:49
I am all in favor of voting, but as Dave stated this is a structural problem and change I believe must involve a focused, concentrated, grassroots effort by a dedicated group intent on making a significant change. People will vote for what they believe are in their best interests and unfortunately not necessarily what is in the best interest of the community at large. Sorry I will miss the meeting coming up.