Trump has already threatened that he will limit federal funding to “sanctuary cities” that don’t adopt his immigration policies. Different cities receive different amounts of federal funding, with Los Angeles receiving around 3% of its budget from the Feds, New York and Chicago receive about 10% and Washington DC receives nearly 25%.
The more Trump squeezes the finances of a city, the more its residents need to support each other. This support can’t simply be in the form of words posted in print and social media, but in direct actions. Conventional actions such as volunteering to help the needy won’t be enough. Protests that disrupt the operations of the city will be counter productive.
We need city resident to help city government fill gaps left by a federal government that can no longer be trusted. This municipal capacity building work must be done in an open and transparent manner that invites residents to contribute deeply to this effort. Cities have massive human resources, and we need to mobilize them to create cost savings that will offset the dwindling of federal funds.
The best way to do that is to allow residents to see into capacity building processes so they can figure out where they can most effectively plugin. This will enable residents to self organize affinity groups than can supplement the efforts of city governments to increase their capabilities.
There are many ways citizens can help their cities increase capacity. One way is to modernize city administration by helping governments adopt free and open source technology solutions that enable the government to run faster, better and cheaper. This is a task that the civic technology community is passionate about and one that they could certainly perform given the right access and resources.
The process of transforming administration through open technology implementation has been successfully performed by 18F, a unit within the Federal Government’s General Services Administration that helps agencies figure out how to improve their operations using open-source technology and iterative development processes. They’ve been extremely successful, to the point where government contractors lodged an official complaint that 18F was hurting their businesses by saving the Federal government too much money.
Does anyone familiar with the capabilities of new technologies have any doubt that a governance system that incorporates smart phones and open source software into its design couldn’t out perform the centuries old legacy systems we current use? Instead of talking about it — let’s build it. For our cities. And now. As if the lives of our neighbors depends on it. Because it might!
This might sound like overkill, or too much work, but we have to be prepared if we want to defend ourselves and our neighbors from destructive federal actions. And if it turns out we overreacted and mistakenly volunteered to improve our city, so it goes.