Tag Archives: civinomics

Commuter survey finds tech talent bonanza in Santa Cruz

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Not worth the money.

Ditching a two hour commute and working in Santa Cruz is worth a 9% cut in pay, according to a survey by Civinomics, commissioned by South Swell Ventures. Most of those surveyed – 61% – said they had technical jobs, with software engineers predominating. The most commonly reported commute time was 2 hours (28%), with 80% saying they traveled at least an hour and a half a day. The sample was specifically targeted rather than random…

The survey was conducted in two parts, with half of respondents being randomly selected while boarding company buses at multiple stops, and the other half being referred through a verified link via email. The latter group of respondents are primarily single car commuters who had heard about the survey through local events and co-workers.

Car commuters, though, were more likely – 78% to 46% – to say they’d take less money for working over the hill than company bus riders, which suggests that it’s not based purely on lifestyle considerations. With gas prices hovering around $4 a gallon, there’s also an economic benefit to staying at home, which would partially offset lower pay.

The results validate the assumption that there is a significant reservoir of high tech talent on California’s central coast that’s ready to be tapped, which is an opportunity for local start-ups and growing Silicon Valley companies alike. With a new fiber optic line in the works, the central coast’s broadband capacity will also be up to the challenge, expanding location options south through Santa Cruz County and into the Salinas Valley. Unmatched quality of life combined with superior infrastructure is hard to beat.

Broadband priority workshop for California’s central coast goes online

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There’s not enough money on the table right now to build all the broadband infrastructure that California needs. The California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) was topped up last year by the state legislature, but even so choices have to be made. The California Public Utilities Commission has asked the regional broadband consortia that it’s funding to weigh in on how and where to set priorities.

One such is the Central Coast Broadband Consortium, which covers Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz Counties. I’m on the executive team for that project. We’ve taken the CPUC’s broadband availability data and used it to identify which areas in which communities do not have access to a minimally acceptable level of consumer Internet service: 6 Mbps down and 1.5 Mbps up, which is the standard set by the commission. Then, we added census data and started crunching the numbers.

The first cut at the analysis has been posted as a workshop on Civinomics.com, and anyone who’s interested in either the specifics of broadband in the region or in the general question of how to quantitatively set broadband development priorities is welcome to participate in the discussion. The workshop asks participants for ideas about metrics and thoughts regarding the methodology.

We’ve started out with ranking communities on four metrics: number of people in CASF-eligible areas in defined communities, the percentage of the community they represent, the density of that population and the number of public agencies and other community service sites. The greater the number of people and community service sites, and the higher the population density and percentage of a community involved, the higher the ranking. We’ll be adding household income data shortly.

Santa Cruz mayor’s keynote surf challenge caps inaugural Civinomicon

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The Santa Cruz style of leadership.

Civinomicon was a weekend of interesting conversation about making Santa Cruz a better place, punctuated by comments from speakers who actually have that goal in their job descriptions.

Santa Cruz County treasurer Fred Keeley, supervisor Zach Friend and Santa Cruz mayor Hilary Bryant keynoted last Friday, Saturday and Sunday respectively.

“We were having a discussion about economic development and the ideas started flying. The conversation was magical,” said Bryant, who also participated in the interest group sessions. “This is going to engage a different set of voices in the conversation”.

Sponsored by Civinomics, a Santa Cruz start-up, and hosted by Cruzioworks, the event drew in more than a hundred people, mostly from Santa Cruz proper and including several local elected officials. The goal was to facilitate civil and informed discussions on eight frequently contentious issues: homelessness, public safety, water, transportation, education, economic development, environmental sustainability and support for the arts.

That’s also the goal of the Civinomics venture overall, except that it’s doing it virtually and not in the flesh. It’s a moderated online platform for publicising, researching and debating public policy issues launched last April in Santa Cruz.

Participants were encouraged to use the platform as a real-time collection and organising tool, in the hope that the ideas and collaborative atmosphere could be transplanted online. Many did, and you can see the results at Civinomics.com.

Bryant presented her new initiative: challenge Silicon Valley CEOs and mayors to a surf contest, as way to showcase the unique culture and style that Santa Cruz brings to the regional economy. “Even if they don’t take me up on the challenge, maybe I’ll get a little more time in the water,” she said.

Santa Cruz’s innovative Open Counter platform going national with Knight grant

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Cowell’s Beach is a great place to start.

Santa Cruz is proving itself to be a leading center for twenty-first century e-government. The latest endorsement came from the Knight Foundation today, which announced it was giving a $450,000 award to the Open Counter project. It was one of only eight winners, out of 860 applicants, of the Knight News Challenge on Open Gov.

Led by Peter Koht, an economic development staffer with the City of Santa Cruz, the Open Counter initiative was originally backed by Code for America, a private foundation that bills itself as a Peace Corps for geeks. A team of CfA fellows worked with Peter last year to build a one stop, online system for starting a new business in Santa Cruz. It walks entrepreneurs through permits, licensing, employment issues, zoning, taxes and fees, and more. What might have taken several visits to different city department over a few days can now be done in minutes.

The Knight Foundation grant will be used to fund the expansion of Open Counter to more cities, including some where CfA fellows are already at work. Peter has been tapped to lead that effort, and was honored today during the MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Although his public sector career has been relatively short – less than five years – he’s been involved in several digital governance projects, including serving as policy lead for the Central Coast Broadband Consortium and as an advisor to Civinomics, a Santa Cruz-based online platform for town hall meetings.

The original idea was to keep people in town and thin the morning commute to Silicon Valley. Looks like the traffic jam will be heading the other way.

Civinomics launches platform for cooler, smarter conversations about hot button issues

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Civil discussion about community issues is the goal of a start-up launched last night in Santa Cruz, California. Civinomics is a platform for online workshops and in-person polling, aimed at engaging a wider segment of the public in conversations about local issues and ideas. Where ever those might be.

“It represents the evolution of social media into civic media,” said Chris Neklason, the company’s product management guru and the co-founder of Cruzio, an independent ISP and the host of the ribbon cutting event. “It’s about reducing friction and making things better.”

By putting workshops online and providing tools to moderators, members of the public who might be interested but not particularly passionate about an issue can join the conversation for a few minutes without being drowned out by small but vocal interest groups. As too frequently happens.

Discussions can be started by anyone interested in a topic or developing an initiative in any community. Or the platform can be used to supplement or replace traditional public workshops and town hall meetings. It’s available online at civinomics.com, or you can put a field survey on an iPad and go out get opinions. The app lets canvassers show plans or pictures, and delve into project details while asking questions.

For example, a poll done last month points to a split in the Santa Cruz community over mandatory fees for plastic bags at stores, but a general consensus that the year old ban has had a good impact.

Workshops already underway include improving the high tech economy in Santa Cruz and figuring out ways to let bikes and cars co-exist better on roads. You can sign up for an account and jump into the conversation right away. Or, start one of your own.