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Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government Hardcover – February 7, 2013
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“Newsom is essentially calling for a complete redesign of the system that dictates how government handles information, and he has specific ideas on how to achieve such a transformation… A passionate and well-reasoned argument for a new style of government that would treat the citizenry not just as spectators but as collaborators.”
"The book remains fresh and lively with Newsom emerging as a persuasive, if fast-talking, progressive proponent focused on how best to 'radically rethink the relationship between citizens and government'... Empowering, motivating."
“Gavin Newsom is a clear-eyed public servant who has never been satisfied with the status quo. Citizenville makes a fascinating case for a more engaged government, transformed to meet the challenges and possibilities of the 21st century, and where technology brings the critical tools of our democracy closer to its citizens than ever before.”
--President William J. Clinton
“Gavin Newsom is helping to lead a new generation of government leaders who think like entrepreneurs - and who understand that technology can transform the way citizens interact with government, just as it is transforming the way we live and work. Citizenville offers a guide for how people can take charge of their government and their futures.”
--Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City; founder of Bloomberg LP
“Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom offers a real discussion of how we communicate and engage with the people and institutions around us – and how government can catch up, or risk getting left behind.”
--Cory A. Booker, Mayor of Newark
"Newsom's ideas are powerful: Why can't government enjoy the same disruptions that happen in the technology industry every day? Citizenville's prescriptions form the basis of a much-needed software upgrade for our democracy."
--Jeremy Stoppelman, Co-Founder and CEO, Yelp.com
“As a serious business guy, Gavin Newsom figured out smart new ways to run his wine businesses. As mayor and lieutenant governor, he led the way in rethinking how to govern. Now, as an author, he puts that knowledge and creativity onto the page, showing us what we citizens must do to greatly improve the way our government runs. Citizenville is a serious and realistic look at how to change the nature of government forever.
--Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist.com
“Citizenville is nothing short of a call for revolution. Gavin Newsom, one of the most tech-savvy politicians in the United States, shows how our government has dropped the ball on using exciting new technologies – and he reveals how we can fix the situation and bring governing power to the people. In the midst of the social-media revolution, Newsom serves as a guide for how to people can take charge of their government and their futures.”
--Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman, X PRIZE Foundation; Exec. Chairman, Singularity University
“Gavin Newsom is one of the most tech-savvy elected officials in the United States. With Citizenville, he provides a blueprint for a government that can tap into the creativity, innovation and transparency that define digital and social media, and makes the case for using all the tools at our disposal to improve our government -- and our lives.”
--Arianna Huffington, founder and editor-in-chief, The Huffington Post
“Citizenville deftly combines Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom's keen understanding of technology and his insight from years in public service. The result is a book that offers ideas for bridging the gap between a plugged-in citizenry and an out-of-date government.”
--Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO, SalesForce.com
"Thanks to new technology and new ideas, today's policy makers have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine how government serves citizens. Gavin Newsom provides a practical and engaging look at how to make our government more efficient, agile, and responsive." --Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup
“The Web is a virtual city already. Web-based services, adroitly deployed, can massively improve physical cities and the dynamics of governance, as Newsom shows. His experience as an innovative and popular mayor of San Francisco gives his book particular substance.”
--Stewart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog
About the Author
GAVIN NEWSOM is the forty-ninth lieutenant governor of the State of California, following two terms as mayor of San Francisco. He was the youngest mayor of San Francisco elected in more than a hundred years. Previously, Newsom founded fifteen small businesses in the San Francisco Bay area after graduating from Santa Clara University. He lives in the Bay Area with his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and their two children.
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Somebody should tell Gavin that California Assemblyman Phil Ting has proposed AB 19, a bill to require the California Secretary of State to implement an Internet voting pilot project. If Gavin will support this, then I'll get excited!
Anyway... the worst part about this book is this continued use of annoying business-techo-speak that means nothing. This book is going to be freakishly dated in about a year. Terms like "crowd-sourcing" is not a term used by regular people. It is just jargon from social media experts who like to find a fancy way to say "asking people for ideas." Say that, Gavin, and then provide an example of a website that does that. Is that so hard, Gav? (I like you, Gavin, I really do -- but do you literally mean you want people to "bypass government" and "take matters into their own hands"?)
Another phrase "telegraphing your engagement" is super lame. Basically he just means sharing where you've gone, what you did and what you thought about it -- for example, checking in at an event or a place on Facebook or posting a review on Amazon or Yelp.
He does have some valid examples of the slow pace of change in government, such as the 9-1-1 system which took 18 years to adapt to cell phone technology (when you call 9-1-1 from a cell phone, the calls do not go to a local police/fire call center -- in California, they go to the California Highway Patrol and the operator directs the call to a local agency and you lose precious time in an emergency).
The craziest part is that even though he uses tons of internet-techno jargon, he decides to EXPLAIN what a smartphone is with a helpful little note in parentheses: "wireless phones with Web access." Dude. Come on. Do you think your nana is reading this and will be shocked to find out there are phones without WIRES yet she will understand what flipping "crowd-sourcing" is? Nana isn't reading this book. She is using her time wisely to catch up on Downton Abbey and so should you.
Since the Internet first appeared, its PR hacks and deluded promoters have been claiming that any minute now it's going to result in an explosion in democracy, freedom, and people power. Yet what the Internet has actually given real power to is global financial networks, the military, and the surveillance state. With the NSA collecting literally every phone call and income inequality at its highest point ever, how anyone can claim with a straight face that more virtuality will reverse the US's slow slide into an oligarchy? What do you think gets a congressman's attention more: five hundred angry tweets, or five hundred angry people doing a sit-in at his office? From the suffragettes to the civil rights workers to French union members rioting in Paris, history makes it clear that the only thing people in power listen to is bodies in the streets.
More troubling than the naivete and vacuity of this thesis is the dishonesty behind it. This is clearly a book written by a man who intends, very soon, to run for higher office. He makes it a point, over and over, to position himself as bipartisan (effusive praise of Eric Cantor and Darrell Issa, two uniquely loathsome men), hastens to chastise "bureaucracy" over and over as if it were some kind of social disease, loses no opportunity to brag about his stints as mayor, and drones tiresomely on about how he was a small businessman who started a wine shop.
He neglects to add that in fact he is the son of a state appeals court judge and his family was a member of San Francisco's social and political elite. He also fails to mention that he started the wine shop and ten of his other eleven businesses with money from Gordon Getty, the billionaire and .... oh, yeah, forgot to mention--family friend. Newsom got his start in politics when he threw a benefit at his shop for then-Mayor Willie Brown, who eventually appointed him to the board of supervisors. His judge father was well connected politically (Nancy Pelosi is a sister-in-law) and Newsom was a member of San Francisco's high society. In short, his implication that he 'worked his way up' because of his creative ideas is as absurd as Mitt Romney's claim to have subsisted on tuna casseroles. Newsom is a member of a social and economic elite class who got to be mayor and lt. governor, not from his hard work and good ideas (though no doubt he has worked hard and does have some good ideas) but because a billionaire was a close family friend and other family friends were in politics. That doesn't necessarily discredit his ideas, but the dishonesty behind it does. If you write a book claiming that everyone can participate in politics if they just have enough willpower and bandwidth--but your own life story proves the exact opposite--what does that say about your sense of personal honesty? If he were an honest man, he'd admit that money (mostly inherited wealth) runs politics, and that the centralization of power that the Internet makes possible, has greatly worsened the situation. The fact that you can now view city budgets online is like focusing on the (true) fact that Hitler was for animal rights.
Don't buy this book, unless you want to see this guy in higher office.