The news broke yesterday of Chris Vein’s appointment to Beth Noveck’s old post under Aneesh Chopra in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. We’re excited for Chris but also for what it means for the values and approaches that both Civic Commons and Code for America espouse.
Chris was the first city CIO I met who made the case for Civic Commons. Later, it was Bryan Sivak who got the ball rolling through the District of Columbia, but back in late 2009, Jay Nath, the Director of Innovation in San Francisco, brought me in to discuss Code for America with Chris, who was facing huge budget cuts and an organization-wide consolidation. Chris felt that with a Mayor who was running for governor (at the time) and the consolidation, the environment in the city wouldn’t support a CfA cohort well that year, but saw no reason to wait on the part of CfA’s vision that was actually the least fleshed out: sharing applications among jurisdictions. Not one to hesitate, he offered the still-in-development Enterprise Addressing System to an effort that didn’t yet exist. When Civic Commons became a reality through the additional efforts of Nick Grossman at Open Plans and our relationship with OCTO in DC, Chris’s offer was still good, and Karl Fogel began work helping Chris’s team and his vendor open source the application. It put Civic Commons off to a great start.
Offering the EAS to a new organization was a bold move, but Chris was motivated by the realization that our current system of siloed development isn’t sustainable. He’s always demonstrated an understanding that change is necessary if we are to make government work for citizens, and that that change will have to come from each of us.
I’m happy to see Chris and his commitment to change join the other innovators in the White House, all of whom have inspired our work.Photo credit: The Demo Conference