360 Review with Carlos Moreno, Code for Tulsa

Posted on December 15, 2014

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Who doesn’t love a good ol’ fashioned performance review? ELGL loves them so much that we’re embarking on a “360 Review of Local Government.” We’re going to evaluate every single inch of the local government arena by talking to ourselves (a.k.a: other local government professionals), tech companies, journalists, professors, and anyone else who hasn’t blocked our email address.

Code for America on Carlos

68438432492a85337e5356ce8fbc3c81Carlos Moreno (LinkedIn and Twitter) is a graphic designer, community volunteer, book publisher, entrepreneur, and a magic-bean buyer. Carlos is the in-house graphic designer at CAP Tulsa, a nonprofit that provides early childhood education services and comprehensive enrichment programs for low-income families. He serves on the board of TulsaNow, a group that advocates for intelligent and efficient land use, planning & zoning, transportation, and economic development policies. Carlos was selected by national urban-affairs magazine NextCity as part of its 2014 Vanguard Class. He’s passionate about revitalizing neighborhoods, improving public policy, and collaborating with local creatives.



Best part of working in the local government arena. Most frustrating?

Best: Local is solveable.
Most Frustrating: City Hall doesn’t believe that public data should be public.

(Complete these phrases) Best thing about the….tumblr_mhgynd8LnN1qbw2q1o1_500

  • 80’s was……riding bikes and playing video games.
  • 90’s was……watching Silicon Valley grow up.
  • 00’s was…..running my own company.
  • Last year was…..learning about leading local government discussions.

Your hometown? What is it best known for?

Santa Clara, CA. Peach orchard turned heart of silicon valley and home of the 49ers.

Which bands would play at your retirement party?

A (2nd time) re-united Police.  Or maybe just a joint Sting + Laura Pausini show.



Describe the current state of local government.

City of Tulsa’s heart is in the right place, but their feet do not know how to get there.  The mayor says pretty things like, “We want to address homelessness, and lead with compassion” and follows that up with praising the building of more jail cells as a solution.  The chamber says it supports local businesses, but helps kill zoning changes in a neighborhood that wants to build them.  MANY similar examples.

Give us three areas in which local government is succeeding.City Hall w sign

  • We have beautiful policies: Our comp plan, and bike and pedestrian master plan are second to none.
  • We have brilliant staff: Our planning department, our regional land use and transit planning body, and many staff leaders in key positions are smart, dedicated, and have a heart for building a better city.

Give us three areas in which local government needs improvement.

  • We need to learn how to build a city for people, and not for cars.
  • We need to learn how to take our goals, and implement them on the ground in meaningful ways.
  • We need to learn how to embrace diversity and include it in public discussion.  Diversity not only in race/color but in socio-economic status, transportation choice, geographic location, housing choices & options, etc.  We do a very poor job of listening to what neighborhoods want and need.

Evaluate local government’s willingness to embrace new technologies.Experts_using_open_data_to_help_Tulsa_re_1360310000_3122199_ver1.0_640_480

Slow, but warming.  We have an open data policy.  Again, actually making it work on the ground and in cubicles is different than putting the policy down on paper, but we’re getting there.  City Hall will be kicking and screaming, but we’ll get there.

For local government, was there any good that came from the Great Recession?

For the most part, Tulsa did not have a Great Recession.  Our housing market has been relatively stable from 2007 to today.  Most of our banks are local or regional.  In many ways it’s been great, but in others it’s given us permission to not change the way we fund capital improvements or think/talk about what economic development looks like.

Evaluate whether local government is prepared for the ongoing wave of retirements.

Not prepared.  We’ve not worked beyond ignored plans and lip-service on changing the development trend of sprawl, which isolates an older community, puts them further away from government and retail services, and focuses on the automobile as the sole form of transportation.

We’re not addressing healthcare from a public infrastructure point of view, we’re not diversifying transportation options.  We’re very slow on learning how to build taller, mixed-use buildings – and most of all we’re not understanding of how all those things are not only connected, but solve problems caused by demographic shifts for both older AND younger citizens.

Wave a magic wand – what three wishes would you grant local government?

download (3)Shared VISION. Our mayor, city council, planning department, planning commission, chamber of commerce, education community, and other city leaders are not on the same page.…or the same book.  Or even in the same library.

COURAGE. We have brilliant, and innovative policies: Our new Comprehensive Plan, and a new bike and pedestrian master plan, but we are not courageous enough to implement those plans.  We’re too comfortable with the status quo: more bond issues, to build more streets, and we call that progress.

COLLABORATION. The health department, the planning dept. the tax assessor’s office, the board of adjustment, the city council, the transportation board, the public records office, etc. etc. etc. all have a lot to learn from each other.  But everyone is so comfortable inside their own silos to get up, walk around, and talk to other departments.  Nowhere is this more evident than when someone from the outside tries to get a bit of public data such as the size of the right-of-way for a street, or the shape files for the properties inside of a planned development and who owns them, etc.  The right hand seldom knows what the left hand is doing.

Give a brief evaluation of your state government and the Federal government.

Both are too partisan, too party-loyal, too driven by money (putting value in the wrong places), and too short-sighted.  Neither are addressing income inequality or climate change (the “bigger problems”) in any substantive way.

What question(s) should we have asked?

What is the structure of local government where you live:  Strong mayor, Strong City Council, City manager or no, etc.

Supplemental Reading

Other Evaluations

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