As early as the 5th century Athenian efforts to banish Socrates, political campaigning has been a prevalent, at times, ugly part of government. In America campaigning has evolved from the days of riding horseback door-to-door to the multi-million-dollar TV ads we see today. Needless to say, campaigning continues to evolve and Ustream is part of that evolution.
One interesting example of Ustream’s involvement in today’s political process is Josh Wolf. We had time to catch up with Josh, a blogger turned politician running for the Mayor of San Fransisco, to learn more about his fascinating story and how it is unfolding on Ustream.TV:
What made you decide to run for Mayor?
As July approached, I realized that there weren’t any visible candidates to challenge the incumbent. The mayor represents the interests of machine politics and big business and the city needs a mayor to represent everyone else. I’m running to hold the incumbent accountable for his failed policies and to demonstrate a new model for community democracy and the future of San Francisco.
So tell us a little about your background?
I’ve been an activist most of my life and a journalist in recent years. I was subpoenaed by the FBI in 2006 to assist the government identify political dissidents I filmed as a journalist at a rally against the G8 summit and ended up spending over 7 months in a federal prison for invoking the journalist privilege and refusing to help identify protesters in what amounted to a McCarthyist witch-hunt.
Given these type of challenges you went through and your past experience, how are you using New Media, and Ustream in particular, to connect with your supporters?
As part of my campaign I have launched a show on Ustream called Tuesday Talks where I interview other mayoral candidates to examine where I align and where I differ with the various challengers for mayor as well as provide a forum to interact with visitors to the show. I’ve also organized a weekly debate series that we had planned to stream live through Ustream, but have not yet been able to achieve due to a broken municipal wifi access point that the city refuses to repair or even acknowledge it’s existence.
My campaign site is a community site built-on Drupal and I will be launching SFDemocracy.net as a much larger initiative which will continue past the election no matter who wins or loses. SFDemocracy is designed to be not only a resource for all things San Francisco but also a “sunshine government” providing a means for the people to weigh in on every issue that comes before City Hall.
What do you think is the single most important issue facing San Fran voters?
The most important issue facing the people of San Francisco is the growing disparity between the rich and the poor. The pervasive poverty in California’s richest city is deplorable and this tale of two cities manifests itself in the rising homicide rate, the omnipresent homeless population and a government that increasingly serves the wealthy elite by neglecting our working class residents and the poor.
You have committed to a open and transparent government upon election? Why do you feel this is important?
An open transparent government is crucial to a democracy. If the government is to be of the people, by the people, and for the people, then the people need to have full access to what their government is doing. Instead our government revolves around back room deals and quid-pro-quo compromises that are negotiated outside the view of the public eye. This approach to government must end now. As mayor, I will build an administration that is committed to open government; not only will I wear a mounted web camera to demonstrate my commitment to transparency, but I will also stream all public meetings online and make them instantly available to the public to share and discuss. I will make all city documents currently available under the Sunshine Act searchable and accessible through the city’s website as opposed to disclosing such information only when these requests are filed.
What are you thoughts on how the US is moving more towards more surveillance, much like London? How do we find balance with this and personal privacy?
I am opposed to the erosion of our civil liberties and personal privacy perpetuated under the auspices of strengthening national security. San Francisco too is seeing an influx of cameras throughout our streets to combat crime. There is scarce evidence that these cameras will reduce crime, but the potential for abuse is rampant. Finding a balance is difficult because the justice department will always oppose any limitations to surveillance; civil liberties groups oppose all encroachments on personal privacy.
I’m not sure what the answer is, but first and foremost all new approaches to surveillance should be public; the subjects of the operations obviously cannot be disclosed but the general methods should be public so that people can voice their concerns about anything they find objectionable. Additionally, I feel that any new surveillance policies adopted must have adequate research to demonstrate that it’s assets outweigh both privacy concerns and the potential for abuse.
Raiders or 49ers?
I’m more of an X-Games kind of guy myself, and as mayor I will work to see the X-Games return to San Francisco after 2009 when their Los Angeles contract expires. Although it will have been ten years since the last X-Games were held in San Francisco, I’m sure the city would like to see them return again.
Any last thoughts? Where can we find out more about you?
You can find me at www.joshwolf.net; my campaign is all about DIY and grass-roots democracy but we can still use all the contributions we can raise. If you believe in building a new democracy and you support my efforts to run for mayor of San Francisco then please consider contributing today. Thank you.