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Statement on Appointment of Matt Cutts as Acting Administrator of the U.S. Digital Service

CONTACT: Mary Kate Mezzetti, marykate@opengovfoundation.org | +1-508-776-2789

WASHINGTON, DC (January 23, 2017) — The OpenGov Foundation today released the following statement from Executive Director Seamus Kraft on the news that Matt Cutts has been appointed to serve as Acting Administrator of the U.S. Digital Service (USDS) in the Trump Administration.  Cutts had been serving as director of engineering for the USDS under President Barack Obama while on temporary leave from a senior position at Google:

“Matt Cutts is one of the best and the brightest engineers to ever serve in the United States Government.  As Washington transitions to a new Administration, Matt’s promotion to Acting Administrator of the USDS is a tremendously positive signal to all those building a better federal government with better technology, data and design: now more than ever, your country needs your talents, creativity and passion for creating modern government that works better for all Americans.

“Cutts’ appointment underscores that the transformational efforts begun under President Obama are working and must continue.  Out-dated and paper-based systems, poor public access and service, inefficient bureaucracy, rampant beltway banditry, billions of taxpayer dollars wasted on bad tech every year— these are endemic government problems that know no party affiliation.  They must be confronted head-on by the best talent our country has to offer, inside and outside government.  Half-hearted half-measures that speak to only half our country won’t cut it, and will only further today’s broken status quo.”

In a blog post announcing the promotion, Cutts linked to a December 2016 USDS report to Congress on what the service has accomplished since forming in August 2014.  He also posted the following recruitment video aimed at inspiring other technologists to step away from profit-driven private-sector work for a period of public service.

USDS-Recruitment-Video-Screen-Shot

Watch: “You’ll Never Be the Same Again”

Kraft continued:

“With Matt Cutts at the helm of USDS, with Gerrit Lansing assuming a top tech role in the White House, and with leaders like Robin Carnahan and Dave Zvenyach and more continuing in senior roles at the General Services Administration and across the federal government, we already have some of the best our nation has to offer signed up and serving.  Yet a vast amount of work remains, with success demanding an equally significant investment from those of us on the outside.  Private-sector tech companies, non-profit tech teams like ours, funders, academic institutions all must step up to support those doing the incredibly difficult work on the inside.  

“Now is the worst possible time to walk away from the civic arena.  Right now, quitting or hand-wringing— whether as a funder or investor or software developer— means giving up and giving in.  That will never happen here at The OpenGov Foundation.  And if folks like Matt, Robin, Gerrit and Dave remain committed to building 21st Century governments that work, I am confident that those on the outside with the talents, the time and the funding America needs will continue to step up at this critical time in our nation’s history.”

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Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited with Aaron Ogle Joining The OpenGov Foundation

“When I was a Navy pilot back there a thousand years ago, flying in the Pacific in 1944, we had a saying that some pilots still use today called CAVU— Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited. That applies to my life today. I’ve been blessed with so many challenges, failed in some, succeeded in others, but ceiling and visibility unlimited, that’s the way I feel about life itself…”

— President George HW Bush, 2008 Bryant University Commencement Address 


By Seamus Kraft

Imagine our democracy as an enormous airplane. It feels like the last few years have been one long stretch of civic turbulence. Everyone feels a little uncertain, unsettled, upset. No party, no place and no organization has had a bump-free ride. That very much includes our team here at The OpenGov Foundation (OGF).

When life tests us, it is how we choose to respond that matters. Like many in the civic tech world, we’ve had to make some very difficult  decisions. We’re scathed, but standing tall. We believe, like President George HW Bush, that the path before us is clear, and the possibilities at hand are unlimited. Each of us is now stronger, more resilient. Our team— from our staff to our board to our partners and advisors— is stronger too, more energized, prepared and committed to our critical mission of helping communities and residents govern better. This airplane belongs to all of us, and everyone in America deserves a voice in where we’re flying.

At The OGF, we’re rebuilding an enormously  important part of this great airship called democracy: our legislatures, from the smallest town to the Chicago City Council to the United States Congress. We’re doing it while airborne. Yet we can’t land. And we definitely can’t crash. But if we’ve learned nothing else during these turbulent times, it is this: building democracy is a massive undertaking— and The OGF can’t do it alone.

Now more than ever, we need to devote more resources to renovating our legislatures. We need more brilliant, curious, kind and creative engineers redesigning and refitting the engines of our democracy, so that together we can restore the rapidly eroding trust eating away at our communities, our country, and ourselves. That’s the real problem, the real source of the turbulence everyone feels. That is a very special problem that calls for a very special kind of engineer.

Aaron Ogle is that special kind of engineer. More importantly, he’s that special kind of person. He is scathed and experienced like we are, and in the best possible way. He’s been grappling with challenges like ours from the day he walked into the first class of Code for America Fellows as a good developer, walking out as a supremely talented civic technologist. From there, Aaron built and led and nurtured great teams of civic-minded technologists, designers, public servants, as Chief Technology Officer of OpenPlans then as Director of Civic Technology for the City of Philadelphia, PA. Remarkably, throughout Aaron has remained not just enthusiastic, but deeply and contagiously passionate about using his gifts to help people lead better, healthier and happier civic lives.

Today, I am honored to announce that he has joined The OGF team as Director of Product. He will be leading The OGF’s product efforts as we create the open, effective and inclusive legislatures we need, with— not for— the real people living and serving and solving real civic problems in real communities across America.

Aaron officially started last Monday. The whole OGF team traveled to his home base of Philadelphia to welcome him for his first two days. We were then on to Chicago for the rest of the week, already back to upgrading the engines of democracy in that fine city alongside our expert co-pilots in City Clerk Susana A. Mendoza’s office and on the Chicago City Council. As the Executive Director, seeing Aaron and our developers jump right in with Team @ChiCityClerk was a joyous, affirming and empowering experience for which I would trade nothing on earth. And this is only the takeoff.

Everyone onboard our democracy— you, your neighbors, your elected officials, everyone— wants these turbulent times transformed into a smoother civic flight. Put another way, everyone has a major stake in the successful transformation of our legislatures into the 21st Century governing institutions we lack, and so sorely need. With Aaron Ogle as part of The OGF family, we’re already closer to turning off the seatbelt signs, free once more to move about the cabin so that America can fly faster and truer into the unimaginably bright, clear and limitless future before us all.

Seamus Kraft is Executive Director and co-founder of The OpenGov Foundation.

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