Dedicated to advancing scholarly and public understanding of the past, present, and future of western North America, the Center supports research, teaching, and reporting about western land and life in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Photo by TheGiantVermin via Flickr
"It ain’t rained in four month/ one cigarette spark will burn the whole town up/ that ‘ole well is plum dry/ the city put a limit on the water you can buy/ We don’t mind ‘cause ‘round here/ We save water and drink beer” are the lyrics to a popular country song by Chris Young.
"Save water, drink beer” is an adage with a longer history than the new country star's catchy tune. But does drinking beer really save water?
Water constraints have defined the development and identity of the American West. Today, the region's water is under enormous stress due to multiple-year droughts in both California and the Colorado River Basin. Complex water management policies and aging infrastructure place increasing pressure on water managers to sustainably manage the West’s most precious resource. Businesses are beginning to tackle the challenges of increasing water stress as the implications of operational, reputational, and regulatory risks of water scarcity become clear. In addition, a 2009 public opinion study by Circle of Blue and GlobeScan on water issues found that 78 percent of the general public believes that solving drinking water problems will require significant help from companies.
Photo: Zócalo Public Square
The following report is re-posted from website of Zócalo Public Square, which joined the Center and the New America Foundation in hosting a panel discussion on the present and future of e-government in California at Stanford on Oct. 26. A link to the full video is now available.
Someday you may be able to respond to the mayor’s poll on a new tax, offer a proposal for your neighbors to consider, and vote on a new ordinance before breakfast—all without leaving your home. Today, though, all votes are still tabulated on paper, and many government websites still resemble the static pages that were first created almost 10 years ago.
Five leaders in e-government joined Irvine Senior Fellow Joe Mathews of the New America Foundation in a discussion at Stanford University on the future of online government. The Zócalo/New America Connecting California event, presented in partnership with the Bill Lane Center for the American West, was attended by an international audience that included local government officials from Denmark to Palo Alto.
“Even in the far-flung regions of the state where the population is low, they are at least dipping their toe in the water,” said April Manatt, principal of April Manatt Consulting and the author of a new report that surveyed California governments about how they are using technology and the Web to engage residents. “I think what we’re finding is there are lots of different ways that local governments are going about this.”
Detail from the Center's interactive map of e-government initiatives in California (click to explore the map)
Throughout California, governments at all levels — from cities, to counties, and the state — are experimenting with high-tech solutions to provide public information and services and connect citizens to their government. From videoconferencing in Nevada County to San Francisco's open data portal and the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District's emergency text-messaging network, communities all over the state are testing the potential of new forms of "E-Government."
These are just a few of the examples found in a report published today by the New America Foundation in collaboration with the Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford entitled, "Hear Us Now? A California Survey of Digital Technology's Role in Civic Engagement and Local Government." The report will be the subject of a lively discussion at Stanford on October 26. The innovations are also highlighted on an an interactive map produced by the Bill Lane Center for the American West, which explores 41 inspiring examples from around the state. Users of the map can also submit any innovations not found in the survey. The report says these innovations ought to be celebrated:
Hidden in all the bad news about California's troubles is this delightful paradox: Californians, while living in a state that experts say is ungovernable, have within their reach new tools that give them greater power to govern themselves than ever before.
At the same time, the report concludes that technological innovation is still in its early stages, with an uncertain road ahead. It advocates for addressing several crucial questions now, including: How do governments and citizens measure the success of these innovations? And how can best practices be shared among the 4,500-plus local governments in the state?
The report and map are available on the New America Foundation's website. Readers are also invited to come and discuss the report and its findings at a public event at Stanford on the evening of Wednesday, October 26, co-sponsored by the Center, the New America Foundation and Zócalo Public Square, entitled "Can Technology Save California's Governments?" For more details, and to RSVP, please see the event page on our site.
Alexandra V. Koelle, a postdoctoral scholar at the Bill Lane Center for the American West, has won the 2011 Oscar O. Winther Award from the Western History Association for the best article published in the Western Historical Quarterly in the past year. Her article, "Pedaling on the Periphery: The African American Twenty-fifth Infantry Bicycle Corps and the Roads of American Expansion," tells the story of a corps of African American soldiers stationed in Montana who tested the bicycle for military use in the 1890s.
The soldiers' lieutenant, a white southerner, believed that the bicycle might be a viable replacement for the horse--after all, he reasoned, bicycles did not need food or rest. After several training rides, 20 volunteers from the Twenty-fifth Infantry Division biked a grueling 1,900 miles from Montana to St. Louis.
Koelle studied the black bicycle corps in her dissertation, which she is working on revising as a book during her postdoctoral fellowship at the Center. Her research provides a unique insight into the history of race relations in the American West, illustrating both similarities to and differences from the East.
Detail from "Dry Times" layout
The Denver magazine 5280 has won the 2011 Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism for "Dry Times," an eye-catching story on the strain wrought by galloping development on the region's water supply. The authors, Natasha Gardner and Patrick Doyle, will share the annual $5,000 prize and participate in a symposium on journalism and western water issues at Stanford University on January 25, 2012.
"In 12 short pages loaded with great graphics, the folks at 5280 managed to take a subject that only wonks can love, and make it understandable by the common person," said Bradley Udall of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a source for the story. "From agriculture to aging infrastructure, climate change to contamination, dishwashers to dams, and even recreation to re-use, the article conveys the multiple interactions and difficult trade-offs inherent in managing this precious and limited resource," he said.
Also receiving recognition from the judges were stories by CaliforniaWatch/KQED Radio and High Country News. The Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism is co-administered by the Bill Lane Center for the American West and the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University.
We're pleased to announce several exciting developments in our work on California governance reform this month:
First, Jim Fishkin, of Stanford's Center for Deliberative Democracy, has an op-ed in The New York Times on the deliberative poll "What's Next California?" which we collaborated on this summer. The poll brought more than 400 randomly selected Californians together for three days in a kind of citizen's constitutional convention to discuss the challenges facing our state and map out viable paths to reform.
PBS filmed the proceedings and will premiere the documentary "California State of Mind" - hosted by Judy Woodruff - on KQED-TV on Thursday night. The documentary will be rebroadcast throughout the month. Click here for a preview and full listing of the broadcast schedule.
And on the evening of October 26, we'd like to invite you to join us at Stanford for a lively discussion of grassroots innovations in technology that are bringing California governments - from the local to the state level - closer to citizens. We'll be releasing a new report "Hear Us Now?" on e-government initiatives throughout the state. And we'll have a panel discussion with the authors and innovators, followed by drinks at an open bar and more rousing discussion. Click here for more details and to RSVP for this fun event - a collaboration between our Center, the New America Foundation, and Zócalo Public Square.
We hope to see you there!
Steve Jobs and his family are in our hearts and on our minds this week. Steve's inspiration and work are woven through our lives.
We remember and return again to Steve's moving and inspiring commencement speech at Stanford in 2005, in which he reflected on the meaning and power of death in our lives, and the importance of following our hearts and living each day as if it could be our last.
The Center has also had the great pleasure and honor of working quietly with and learning from Steve's wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, and her Emerson Collective, as we have collaborated on California governance reform efforts.
As impromptu personal memorials bloom on the sidewalks outside the family's home here in Palo Alto, the Apple campus in Cupertino, the Apple store here on University Avenue, and in front of Apple stores around the world, we also reflect on the outsized impact that Steve Jobs had on an industry, this region, the world, and our lives.
In this interview in the Bay Citizen, Center affiliate Leslie Berlin, project director for the Stanford Silicon Valley Archives, which includes the Apple collection, provides historical perspective on the dramatic changes we've seen transform our valley, the West, and our world, in our lifetimes — changes in which Steve Jobs played such an important role.
Leslie describes the transformation of the "Valley of Heart's Delight," the pastoral Santa Clara Valley lined with orchards, to "Silicon Valley," a mecca for high-technology research and development fueled first by government contracts. As Silicon Valley took shape, the conditions were ripe for a new era of personal technology that Steve Jobs came to embody:
Jobs’ first chunk of time at Apple absolutely coincided with the introduction of advanced consumer electronics. When you look at what drives so much interest in the Valley right now, it’s not business applications or enterprise software. People love, and quite literally love, their personal electronic devices, their iPhones, their iPads, even their PCs — and even Facebook. It’s a shift, first about selling to the government, then selling to companies, and now it’s about selling to consumers.
We would like to welcome Brenda D. Frink as a new postdoctoral fellow at the Bill Lane Center for the American West. Brenda has a Ph.D. in history from Stanford University and an M.A. from San Francisco State University. Her research and teaching interests focus on the history of race and gender in the American West.
In addition to her academic background, Brenda has strong professional credentials in writing, editing, and project management. She comes to us from the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research. During her tenure at the Lane Center, Brenda will serve as the research coordinator for our work on the Comparative Wests, Rural Wests, Water in the West, and California Constitutional Reform.
The Center is saddened to mark the passing on Sept. 21 of Judge Pamela Ann Rymer, who served with distinction as a Federal Judge, Stanford Trustee and member of the Center's Advisory Council. Judge Rymer, who was 70 years old, had stepped down from the council earlier this year.
A graduate of Stanford Law School in 1964, she served as a Federal Judge for almost three decades, most recently on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
We would like to offer our most heartfelt condolences to Judge Rymer's family and friends.
To read more about Judge Rymer's exceptional life and career, a full obituary is available at the Stanford News Service.