Code for America: We coded our way into this, now help us code our way out

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Around fifteen hundred city government employees and civic-minded technologists passed through the Downtown Oakland Marriott last week during the three-day Code for America Summit.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf gave a welcoming address, and sales pitch to civic hackers:

“Oakland is the birthplace of the Black Panthers and the Hell’s Angels. We’ve got mad love for disrupters,” Schaaf said. “Oakland is the hottest place for urban innovation… this is not your daddy’s bureaucracy!”

And:

“Free the entrepreneurial bureaucrat!”

She also remarked on the recent announcement that Uber was moving its headquarters to Oakland.

“Now as a government… they did not ask for tax breaks, or special treatment or exceptions. So there is nothing I can force them to do. But you better believe I sent them a very explicit letter welcoming them, letting them know that I am here to help them become members of our community. And that some of our expectations about how they express that citizenship is about specific commitments around achieving equity, fighting displacement, supporting our local economy and also about being a good compassionate neighbor through environmental practices, hiring locals, charity work.”

There’s a building spree on in Oakland, with 14,000 residential units in the pipeline, the vast majority market-rate, and rents went up 9.1 percent last year, the largest jump in the country. The city’s black population is down by nearly a quarter since 2005.

Mayor Schaaf proposed the notion of “tequity” (“I’d love to see that trending at the end of the day, you’ll make my day if you hashtag that”) and made a stab at summing up the mission at hand at the Marriott.

“We need tech to drive equity to make up for the wrongs of the past. Let’s all be honest that government hasn’t always served people equally and now we have a new tool to make up for that and correct it…”

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