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THE NOONER for December 12, 2011

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DISTRICT UPDATES

  • CD37 - added activist Mervin Evans (D)
  • AD79 - added community organizer Clovis Honore (D)
  • AD79 - added professor/activist Pat Washington (D)

TWEET DU JOUR: @hall_cb "God has been delivering his message in church. Then he realized all you assholes are in the bar watching football #newtactic #Tebow #awesome"

DATE: December 12, 2011
TO: The Honorable Debra Bowen, Secretary of State
FROM: Scott Lay
RE: Cal-Access is Dead.

I don't need to tell you that we have a major problem. For the last week and a half, the Cal-Access database that catalogs candidate, campaign finance, and lobbyist information has been down for all but a handful of hours.

The failure comes as no surprise to those that have watched the state's neglect of the database over time. In fact, I had lunch with a couple of friends a few months ago when we predicted the database was going to die soon. Ouch . . . I can't believe how quickly the prediction came true.

It is time for you to declare that Cal-Access is dead. Yes, we can duct tape it and keep it running for another week perhaps, but that's not a solution. Let's move on and build something that California's citizens deserve.

Check out the database of my home state of Oregon. Look at the way you can search contributions and expenditures! Search committees by election! Yes, I know we were ranked in the top 4 systems in 2007. However, that was the same year as the iPhone launched and, from what I can tell, we haven't made any improvements since then.

The first year I actively worked with the Legislature was 1993-94, when I was a student advocate causing trouble at Orange Coast College with Paul Mitchell. In a young Assemblywoman from the South Bay, we saw someone who grasped the emerging Internet and wanted to use its power to make public information widely available. We cheered your AB 1624, which made legislative information available to those of us far from the Capitol that couldn't afford subscription services. Some may say that we had a schoolboy crush on you--a poligeek--something that we dreamed of being.

Cal-Access, which dates its legacy to SB 49 by Betty Karnette in 1997, and was enhanced by Kevin Shelley in 2003, has simply fallen behind the times and was never built envisioning the technology revolution that this state has led. We have simply let the world pass us by. It's time to go back to the drawing board and reinvent our filing and disclosure systems.

Don't believe those that suggest that a new system will cost $10-20 million. That's the old way of thinking, one that is fueled by consultants and IT companies that see government only as a client. Today, bigger and more complex databases are built with $100,000 and a few cases of Red Bull. However, this means starting over and scrapping Cal-Access, which I believe is not only the sole solution, but the better solution. But, we need to start now.

Let's build a database that allows easy back-end downloading, like the Legislative Data Center with bill information, the Federal Elections Commission or, ugh, even the State of Texas. Let's have lobbying reports and Form 700s that are submitted with strong data structures, making them easier to search and index.

Let's build it on open source solutions, and secure the commitments of Google, the foundations, the universities and others to help us build and host it. Lots of us are ready to help. Just give us the word.

Debra, I've admired you for a long time. The neglect of Cal-Access is not your fault, and I know you can't go to the governor to ask for a chunk of cash to fix this broken system.. However, with California's most exciting and unpredictable elections in a generation on deck for next year, your tenure as Secretary of State will be measured by this moment.

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13 "HIGHLY COMPETITIVE" SEATS: Just the Facts: Redistricting [PPIC]

AD72/AD74: Councilman's Address May Change Campaign Plan [Michael Miller @ OC Now/LA Times]

...why not pull an Alarcon?

UNDERSTATED: Wonkbook: The real unemployment rate is 11 percent [Ezra Klein at WaPo]

NOOOOOOO: Politico's tireless blogger and tweeter Ben Smith is moving to BuzzFeed, a site that, well, ain't Politico.

FROM FOURTH TO FIRST: On October 10, the Broncos and Newt Gingrich were both in fourth place and now lead their respective divisions.

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