John Bonifaz, ODF and the 2006 Election

It has frequently been observed that the clock of administration support for ODF may be ticking down in Massachusetts. After all, Governor Mitt Romney, who recommitted decisively to continue support for ODF following the resignation of State CIO Peter Quinn, announced that he will not seek reelection in November of this year. On the other hand, Secretary of State William Francis Galvin, an announced opponent of ODF, has stated that he will run for reelection - and believes that he should have a strong say on the subject of IT policy as it relates to document retention.


What will that mean for ODF, especially if accessibility issues for the disabled delay the January 1, 2007 effective date for ODF implementation?

One might assume that open standards in general, and ODF in particular, would not prove to be a hot issue in the upcoming campaign. Not only are document formats not something that most candidates might be conversant on, but they might also conclude that they had more to lose than to gain by engaging on an issue such as this.

Happily, this may not prove to be the case, as one candidate — and appropriately enough, a candidate that is challenging Galvin for his job at that — has already decided to make ODF adoption an issue in his campaign.

That candidate is John Bonifaz, a political activist with a long record of support for social issues. His prior endeavors include leading a ballot recount challenge in the Ohio courts in the last Presidential election, working on campaign reform initiatives, co-founding a veterans rights institute, founding the National Voting Rights Institute and authoring a book titled Warrior-King: The Case for Impeaching George W. Bush. All in all, hardly an establishment figure, even in this bluest of blue states.

Last week (on March 8), Bonifaz issued a press release titled “Bonifaz Endorses Open Standards for Digital Democracy.” In that release, he calls for the use of open IT standards for government, and specifically supports the use of ODF by the Massachusetts government, saying:

Use of open standards based data formats will foster government transparency and accountability, ease citizen access to public information, create greater competition for government business, improve interoperability between applications and organizations, and ensure the archival integrity of digital information.

While Bonifaz has endorsed ODF itself, he does not stand by the original January 1, 2007 targeted effective date for the new policy. Instead, like the current administration, he states that the conversion date should lag as necessary until adequate accessibility tools are in place and training has been completed.

Bonifaz also rejects the pending economic stimulus bill amendment that would take IT policy power away from the Information Technology Division (ITD) and transfer it to a “task force” of political appointees. Instead, the press release states:

Rather than dictating from the chair of a central committee, I would work with our municipalities and state agencies to outline a clear and sensible approach, one that develops flexible and dynamic guidelines that will allow for a diversity of solutions and open the door to greater efficiency and transparency in Massachusetts government.

Whether or not Bonifaz is successful in becoming the democratic standard bearer in November, he is to be complimented for taking on this issue as part of his campaign. When one candidate places an issue on the table of public opinion, it forces other candidates to formulate and announce their own positions. From this springs the opportunity for open debate, and then informed choices by voters.

It remains to be seen whether other candidates — and especially candidates to succeed Governor Romney, – will follow Bonifaz’s lead and make their views on the issue known. The best way to make that happen is simple – for reporters and citizens to ask, in interviews, email, and from the floor during campaign debates.

We’ll have to wait and see whether or not that happens. But I, for one, am hoping that it does.

[To browse all prior blog entries on this story, click here]

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