Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, is getting a lot of attention today with his plan to cut $9 trillion in federal spending in the next decade. My colleague Chris Casteel had an update this afternoon.
Here’s a look at just how much money just $1 trillion actually is, courtesy of the venture capital firm KPCB. The firm released its version of the country’s financial statement, called USA Inc., back in February.
I had a great time on Saturday down at the Skirvin Hotel for the first CityCampOKC, part of the second day of the Gov 2.0a conference. CityCamps have been in several other cities for the last couple of years, but this was a first for Oklahoma.
This was my first “unconference,” a loosely themed and loosely organized day of like-minded people coming together. Basically, the agenda is set by the participants, with help from the unconference facilitators.
After introductions, we wrote some discussion topics on yellow stickies that our facilitator, Oklahoma City’s Zach Nash, put on the wall. Since we all were interested in the intersection of government and technology, some of the topics weren’t a surprise.
The first session split into two groups, one for open data in local government and the other for website design.
I was more interested in the open data side, since much of my job involves requesting and analyzing publicly available government data. We grabbed our list of topics from the wall and got to the discussion.
We had a good mix of city officials, developers, entrepreneurs and activists at the open data table.
I was a little leery that we would be able to cover the eight or so topics on our list. But after reading each sticky note, the conversation just started flowing.
Of course, open data is not just data provided by government agencies. Increasingly, engaged citizens are creating their own data sets that can be used by developers and hackers for “mashing up” on maps, smartphone apps and data visualization.
A number of state and city government have launched open data websites in the last few years, including Oklahoma earlier this year. But the challenge is showing what can be done with that data.
Gov2.0Radio’s Adriel Hampton talked about the datasf.org website and how the city of San Francisco has compiled some of the apps using open data into a showcase page. Other cities or states are sponsoring competitions with small cash prizes for the best app using open data.
The challenges posed by both government-provided data and citizen-generated data are similar. The data needs to be accurate and timely. If it’s provided by citizens, there needs to be a process for collection and peer verification. If it’s provided by government, there needs to be a easy way for users to report errors in the data.
Still, at the end of the day, the data needs to be useful to the public. Among some of the other ideas discussed:
- Breaking down the bureaucracy inside city government so departments can freely share data without turf wars.
- Harnessing existing platforms like See Click Fix or Open 311 to get the public to report problems with city services.
- Providing APIs (Application Program Interfaces) so city governments can provide feeds of city data to the public without much extra manpower or effort.
- Explaining the value of open data to city decision makers. Some suggestions included informal “citizen advisory panels” for leaders to ask for additional explanation from local data users and developers.
On the other side of the room, participants discussed how to best redesign or begin websites for city government. Among the models mentioned was the recent collaborative redesign of the federal government’s Federal Communications Commission website. Other topics included:
- Getting elected officials involved in the redesign process.
- The website as the new face of city government and how it’s just as important as the customer interactions with trash pickup or pothole repairs.
- Is the city website ever really “done” and the importance of continual improvement.
- Creating a sustainable fee structure for online services that can help support website development.
- Keeping track of city website redesigns at GovLoop.
- Using open source tools like Drupal to power new local government website services. (Also see FirmStep.)
- Translating technical language into what people’s needs are in their communities. Ideally, all this technology should just make it easier, not harder, for citizens to engage with their local governments.
After lunch, Adriel Hampton gave a short presentation about his new company, Nation Builder, and how to take advantage of online tools to organize community members. (More on that later.)
The last session of the day was a discussion on how local governments can reach out to underserved communities. Among the key points:
- Don’t forget about local libraries being key points for outreach.
- Community building using Neighborgoods.org, an online swap-shop for neighbors and friends.
- Don’t force people to use a smartphone for city services. Not everybody can afford one. People will use the easiest thing available to them.
- If you have a Twitter account, don’t forget to embed its feed on your website.
- Using SMS text alerts or QR codes for additional information about city services.
- Reaching out to non-English speakers in the community.
- Providing closed-captioning for online video.
- Using savings from paperless/online billing for targeted outreach in other areas of city government.
But here in Oklahoma, so far all the public has seen from the redistricting efforts of the state House and Senate are some static PDF maps dealing with congressional redistricting from the House. The Senate hasn’t publicly released any maps.
Transparency has been the big buzz word this session. But all the redistricting work has gone on behind closed doors.
A new House map is expected to be unveiled Friday.
Oklahoma should join other states and release the data and the geographical files, typically called shapefiles, for all to see.
Here’s what Texas offers:
Florida goes one better, and lets the public draw their own maps using a tool called MyDistrictBuilder.
Here’s why the data is important: With the map shapefiles, you can layer other important information like voter registration and demographic information on top of each redrawn district to get a fuller picture of the represented areas. The Texas Tribune put out some good maps earlier this week doing just that.
Today is the deadline to register for the Gov 2.0a conference here in Oklahoma City.
This is the second year of the conference on open government, technology and citizen engagement. I attended last year and was very impressed with the lineup. This year’s lineup looks equally (if not more) impressive.
The conference starts Friday morning at the Skirvin Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City. It continues throughout the day and concludes with several keynote speakers Friday evening, including Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin; Tom Walker of i2E; and Hillary Hartley of NIC Inc.
On Saturday, the conference splits in two. One part, Mash-It-Up Camp, is geared more toward a tech audience. The other event, City Camp, will cater more to a government and community audience. My job straddles both worlds, but I plan to be at City Camp on Saturday.
For more on the Gov 2.0a conference, just check out their website. The conference is organized by a great group of local folks: Sid Burgess, Derrick Parkhurst, David Glover, Lindsey Coster and John R. Wood.
From Sunday’s paper:
BY PAUL MONIES
Published: May 1, 2011
Minority children are now the majority among children in 11 Oklahoma counties, including Oklahoma County, the state’s largest county.
That’s a big change from a decade ago, when just four** Oklahoma counties had “majority-minority” child populations.
Hispanic children and children of two or more races accounted for most of the state’s under-18 population growth in the last decade, according to an analysis of census data by The Oklahoman.
Also, the racial gap has widened between children and adults, another indication of a demographic shift that could change the face of Oklahoma. In almost half of the state’s counties, the gap between the share of white adults and white children exceeds the statewide average of 17 percentage points.
William Frey, a demographer at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, calls the differences between child and adult populations a “racial generation gap.” Oklahoma ranked sixth in the United States for the largest racial generation gap. Arizona was first.
“Change in the nation’s child population over the 2000s show the sharp distinction between the country’s aging white population and its growing, youthful new minority populations,” Frey said in a recent report. “These gaps could signal emerging cultural and political divisions across generations.”
Overall, 44 percent of Oklahoma’s children were minorities in 2010. That compared to 27 percent of adults who identified themselves as minorities. In 2000, minority children made up 35 percent of the child population. Almost 23 percent of adults were minorities.
For the analysis, minorities were anyone not identifying themselves or people in their household on census forms as white. Hispanics can be of any race, according to U.S. Census Bureau definitions.
Some of the demographic changes could be attributed to how people report race and ethnicity, said Patricia Bell, a sociology professor at Oklahoma State University.
“Some of that is not necessarily population growth or change, it’s re-identification where people identify themselves differently,” Bell said. “Sometimes when you have a couple who are of different races, they leave the race of a child blank on the form and the Census Bureau makes the assignment.”
Other changes could come from migration or differences in birthrates in rural or poverty-stricken areas, Bell said. Some white and black college graduates with children have left the state for job opportunities in the last decade. Also, the Hispanic growth in Oklahoma has been rapid, but the share of Hispanics in the state remains lower than neighbors such as Kansas and Texas, she said.
“It can be a combination of migratory patterns for women and children as well as birthrate,” Bell said. “People who have a multiracial background are more likely than before to identify themselves in some category that they didn’t use before.”
Changing child demographics
In the last decade, the number of children in Oklahoma increased by 4 percent to almost 930,000. By contrast, the adult population grew 10 percent to 2.82 million.
Oklahoma was among 27 states that had increases in their child populations.
Among children in Oklahoma, the growth was uneven across the state. The child population grew in 36 counties and fell in 41 counties.
The child populations in Canadian, McClain, Marshall, Logan and Wagoner counties all grew by more than 20 percent. It fell by more than 20 percent in Tillman, Grant and Cimarron counties.
Since 2000, the number of Hispanic children (of any race) grew by more than 62,000, or 89 percent.
At the same time, the number of children of two or more races grew by almost 27,000, or 49 percent, and the number of Asian children increased by 4,400, or 41 percent.
The number of American Indian children grew by more than 6,300, or 7 percent.
To contrast that, the state’s population of white children fell by nearly 57,000, or 10 percent, during the last decade. The number of black children fell by more than 6,700, or 8 percent.
In his report, Frey said similar shifts are happening across the country.
“Slower growth among whites owes in part to their lower fertility rate — about 1.9 births per white woman, compared with 3.0 births per Hispanic woman — as well as a relatively low contribution to population growth from immigration,” he wrote.
Child advocates said the demographic shifts among children have policy implications in Oklahoma.
“If we want a progressive, educated and healthy workforce, we have to look at the demographics within our state and assure that we have the needs to move forward to where we want Oklahoma to be,” said Linda Terrell, executive director of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.
Terrell said one of the biggest needs is educational support for bilingual programs. She cited a recent case of a woman in Cleveland County whose daughter had been treated for chronic earaches. Once a translator became involved, it turned out the woman wasn’t following medicine instructions.
“Once we got that language barrier taken care of, the baby was better,” Terrell said. “That’s just one kind of extra supports we need to make sure our children are cared for properly.”
**The four counties in 2000: Adair, Cherokee, Harmon and Muskogee.
The Legislature has two big jobs this year: balance the state’s budget and redraw the boundary lines for Congress and the state Senate and House.
So far, it’s been fairly quiet on the redistricting front, at least publicly. But behind the scenes, you can be sure there’s a lot going on.
The “easy” part–Congressional redistricting–is on its way to completion. Unlike a decade ago when the state lost a seat, the congressional plan was easier this year because Oklahoma stayed at five seats. The House approved a congressional redistricting bill earlier this week. Here’s what the proposed map looks like, according to House Bill 1527: (click for larger version)
A closer look at the map shows there are not a lot of differences between the current congressional district lines and the proposed changes. Essentially, the state’s lone Democrat, Rep. Dan Boren in the 2nd Congressional District, now gets Marshall County on the Texas border and
gives up gains some suburban Tulsa territory in Rogers County. There also are some changes to Rep. Tom Cole’s 4th District and Rep. James Lankford’s 5th District, mostly around Tinker Air Force Base. Rep. Frank Lucas picks up more population in fast-growing (and solidly Republican) Canadian County, courtesy of Cole. Around Tulsa, the 1st District’s Rep. John Sullivan picks up a little territory to the west in Creek County.
If you want to try making your own map, check out the free site, Daves Redistricting. Without any nods to current allegiances, politics or the Voting Rights Act, I made my own quick-and-dirty version of congressional redistricting. I had one requirement for my map: each district had to stay within the county lines.
My take: It’s a lot harder than it looks.
Even with all the tools available on Daves Redistricting site, I managed to leave out about 900 people, who have effectively been disenfranchised by my map. (A court would surely throw out my plan!) Also, I have Lankford’s 5th District (yellow below) with about 10,000 more residents than it should have. Ideally, each congressional district should have 750,270 people, according to the latest Census data. Lucas’ 3rd District is in purple, Cole’s 4th District is in red, Boren’s 2nd District is green and Sullivan’s 1st District is in blue.
Here’s my map: (click for larger version)
Under my map, all of Oklahoma and Logan counties are now in the 5th District. Boren’s 2nd District moves westward on its southern section, picking up Ardmore. Cole gets all of Canadian County and Pottawatomie County. Lankford gets the so-called “Tinker Notch” in Oklahoma County. To replace the loss of Canadian County, Lucas takes in population north of Tulsa and in northeastern Oklahoma.
For some more Oklahoma congressional redistricting options, check out this message board for political map junkies.
Lawmakers now have about five weeks left in the session to complete the harder redistricting task for the state House and Senate. Capitol reporter Michael McNutt has an update on that here.
The main things to watch for in legislative redistricting are how they will redistrict seats with declining rural populations and which seats are held by term-limited lawmakers. Oklahoma Watchdog has more on that here.
You can also try your hand at redrawing legislative districts at Daves Redistricting. I haven’t tried that option, yet, but it doesn’t seem like an easy task. Each new House district should have about 37,142 residents. Under House rules, you’re allowed to deviate from those ideal numbers no more than plus or minus 3 percent, or about 1,100 people. Ideally, each new Senate district should have 78,153 residents.
For more on redistricting in general, check out the following sites:
- Oklahoma House of Representatives Redistricting
- National Conference of State Legislatures Redistricting
- U.S. Census: Redistricting Data
- Redistricting the Nation
- Election Data Services
- Brennan Center for Justice: A Citizen’s Guide to Redistricting
- The Redistricting Game
Just in time for Sunshine Week, it looks like the U.S. Department of Justice has rolled out a new website with information on the federal Freedom of Information Act, commonly called FOIA.
It looks like a pretty slick and easy-to-use site. But all the pretty websites don’t make up for the decisions made by federal officials when it comes to government transparency and openness. The Associated Press reports on the Obama administration’s progress on that front, and the results are mixed:
AP’s analysis showed that the odds a government agency would search its filing cabinets and turn over copies of documents, e-mails, videos or other requested materials depended mostly on which agency produced them – and on a person’s patience. Willingness to wait – and then wait some more – was a virtue.
Also, don’t forget to check out our own special page for Sunshine Week. You’ll find our latest stories on open government and transparency efforts at the state and local level:
If you’re interested in government transparency, come out to the annual FOI Oklahoma Inc.** Sunshine Conference on Saturday, March 12. The event is from 8:30 a.m to 3:30 p.m. at The Oklahoman, 9000 Broadway Extension, Oklahoma City.
The conference will kick off Sunshine Week, a national initiative to promote openness in government and empower the right to know among the people.
This year’s theme is “Putting Muscle Behind Oklahoma’s FOI Laws.” Registration is $35, but there are special rates for students and current FOI Oklahoma members. Check out a PDF of the schedule.
[Update: There also will be a silent auction, the proceeds of which will benefit FOI Oklahoma's Sunshine Fund. The organization used its first grant from that fund to help defray the costs of an Open Meetings Act lawsuit filed by citizen activists. Among the items up for bidding are an evening in an Oklahoma RedHawks suite at the Bricktown Ballpark; a one-night stay at the Colcord Hotel, among others. More items here. ]
The following is from Joey Senat, associate professor of journalism at Oklahoma State University and a former president of FOI Oklahoma:
The conference’s keynote speaker is a national Open Government Hall of Fame inductee, who will offer advice on creating a state agency that Oklahomans can go to for help when officials wrongly withhold records or restrict access to open meetings.
As executive director for the nation’s first-such state agency, Robert J. “Bob” Freeman is responsible for providing advice about New York’s open records and meeting laws to the public, state and local governments, and the media.
Freeman’s keynote address also will offer advice on making Oklahoma’s open government laws work for the public.
Other sessions include:
- A state representative [Rep. Jason Murphey] discussing bills requiring the Legislature to comply with Oklahoma’s Open Meeting and Records laws;
- A panel of local heroes who have gone to court seeking information under the Open Records Act and challenging the conduct of public bodies under the Open Meeting Act; and
- Experts explaining how to use the Open Records Act to request records and to spot the most-likely violations of the Open Meeting Act.
The luncheon will include a tribute to former Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Marian Opala. Recipients of FOI Oklahoma Inc.’s annual Marian Opala First Amendment Award and three freedom-of-information awards will be recognized, as will the winners of its first FOI essay contest for college students.
Please support open government in Oklahoma by attending this conference. More people equal a bigger message to those in government who ignore our state’s Open Records and Open Meeting laws.
**Full disclosure: I am a board member of FOI Oklahoma Inc. I’ll also be speaking on one of the panels.
The U.S. Census Bureau last week released the first batch of Oklahoma data from the 2010 Census. Here’s a list of what we covered in print and online:
- Oklahoma Census: State Hispanic population grows 85 percent since 2000
- Population growth in suburbs, declines in rural areas will have political ramifications
- New metro boom towns include Piedmont, Blanchard
We’ve added those stories to our existing Census continuing coverage page on NewsOK, too.
If you get a chance, check out the map I created using census data at the tract level for central Oklahoma. I pulled out eight central Oklahoma counties and plotted the growth for each census tract over the last decade. In this map, the size of the bubble shows how many people each tract added, with the smallest bubble representing a population decrease: (Adobe Flash required)
I also made another version, above, that shows the same information, but this time uses shaded census tracts instead of bubbles. I think the bubble map is easier to figure out, but if you think differently, let me know in the comments below.
In both of these maps, I went with the raw population change by census tract. I could have gone with percent change over the last decade, but there were some sparsely populated tracts that added (or lost) a handful of people, so that threw off the ranges of percent change. I went with the actual population change to get a better idea of just which census tracts these new residents were going to (or leaving).
I’m a big fan of Geocommons, the service I used to make those maps. One of the conditions of using their free (for now) service is that you have to make your data available to the public. Since all of this data originally came from the U.S. Census Bureau, you can search for “Oklahoma” in Geocommons and make your own maps based on the data and GIS files I uploaded to the site.
To get started, read this helpful user guide on the Geocommons site.
Finally, a big thanks goes out to Investigative Reporters & Editors and USA Today, who provided some of the population comparisons to the 2000 Census in the data I used. For more on what other papers are doing with their census data, check out Anthony DeBarros’ blog.
The first batch of data came out from the U.S. Census Bureau last week, and the results for Oklahoma were pretty much what most people expected: steady growth and no change in the number of congressional seats. (Read my story here.)
For the record, Oklahoma’s population stood at 3,751,351 residents in April of this year. That’s up more than 300,000 people, or 8.7 percent, from the population in 2000.
The first Census numbers are important because they are used for the decennial apportionment of congressional seats. Oklahoma, which lost a seat after the 2000 Census, will stay at five House seats.
Overall, 18 states will trade 12 House seats in the 2012 elections. Texas, which added four seats, and Florida, with another two seats, were the big winners. Adding single seats were Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington. Among the losers are New York and Ohio, both of which will lose two seats. Meanwhile, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania each will lose one seat.
The population base for the apportionment numbers is slightly higher than what the Census counts as the resident population. That’s because the apportionment numbers include military and federal employees posted overseas. In Oklahoma, the apportionment population was 3,764,882. That included 13,531 Oklahomans overseas. The state ranked 24th in the number of residents overseas.
Apportionment tries to keep the number of people in each House seat at roughly the same levels. This year, the average number of residents in each congressional district reached 710,767 people. That’s up from 646,942 people in the average congressional district in 2000.
However, because of the way the apportionment formula works, not all states will have 710,767 people in each of their congressional districts. Before any seats are doled out on population, each state gets one House seat automatically. The remaining 385 seats are distributed according to a formula, called the “method of equal proportions,” that’s been in use since 1941.
The following chart shows each state’s average population per congressional district after the latest apportionment. Click for a larger version
As you can see, Oklahoma’s per-seat average is almost 42,000 more than the U.S. average of 710,767. Arizona and Wisconsin are pretty close to the average. Every state above them in the chart can be thought of as having disproportionately less influence per seat than the states below them. Seven states have at-large congressional seats; their populations range from 568,300 for Wyoming to 994,416 for Montana.
Keith Gaddie, a political science professor at the University of Oklahoma, said what counts in apportionment is the relative growth of states. Even though Oklahoma added 300,000 people in the last decade, its growth rate was still a full percentage point lower than the nation as a whole. And compared to Texas’ growth rate of 20.6 percent, Oklahoma is lagging. The Lone Star State added more than 4.2 million people in the last decade.
“Texas added more people over the last decade than there are in Oklahoma,” Gaddie said. “Texas grew so much, it grew an entire Oklahoma. Texas now has over seven times the voting power in Congress than Oklahoma does. In 1930, Texas only had twice the voting power in Congress that Oklahoma had. We appear to be headed in a very different direction in terms of the size and influence of the Congressional delegation.”
Despite that, the “redness” of the state will work in our favor once the 112th Congress begins in January. With the Republican takeover in the House, several Oklahoma lawmakers will get prime committee seats. For example, U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, will chair the House Agriculture Committee.
Gaddie said Oklahoma was 16th in line to add a House seat this time around. The state would have had to add another 125,000 new residents to gain a seat under the apportionment formula, according to Election Data Services.
There’s been some controversy over whether the Census Bureau should count undocumented immigrants when it comes to apportionment. Clark Bensen at Polidata Co. has some interesting comments about counting only citizens in Oklahoma and other states:
CITIZEN POPULATION: Had the apportionment been done on the basis of citizen population, there would have been many differences. Of course, the important caveat here is that this is merely an illustrative exercise because of both legal and technical considerations. To assess the rate of citizenship the source is the 2009 1-year release of the American Community Survey (ACS). Changes over the 2000 actual apportionment would have been significant had this rule been applied.
For example, using this estimate of the citizen population as the apportionment base:
a) CA would have not remained the same but lost 5 seats.
b) NY would have not lost 2 seats but lost 3 seats,
c) TX would have not gained 4 seats but gained only 2 seats.
d) OH would have not lost 2 seats but lost only 1 seat.
e) FL would have gained not 2 seats but gained only 1 seat.
f) other states that would have gained a seat or not lost a seat include: MT, OK, MO (not lost), IN, PA (not lost), and NC.
In the end, this kind of analysis is futile because the Fourteenth Amendment requires apportionment to count each person, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status:
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.
The data must be used to apportion the House seats among the states, although there is no constitutional requirement it be used to determine intrastate districts. It appears the term “whole number of persons” is broad enough to include all individuals, regardless of citizenship status, and thus would appear to require the entire population be included in the apportionment calculation. As such, it appears a constitutional amendment would be necessary to exclude any individuals from the census count for the purpose of apportioning House seats.