Tech’s municipal-privatization creep

Tech continues its slither into all facets of local to national government by lobbying Sacramento-area officials to allow them to sidestep the municipal-contract process altogether. Tech’s proposal is based in part on the Startups in Residence program:

West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon called the program a success as it helped city officials think differently about technology and resulted in a potential long-term contract with one app-maker. The platform uses mapping software to help the city locate homeless people and direct them to public services

The municipal-contract system is a process which, ideally, ensures public contracts go to vetted contractors for reasonable prices. This is rarely the case and the system is often pushed into the realm of farce, but at least companies are going through the motions to perform democracy for us. Allowing tech to bypass this could create an open-ended trial period where they could test technology with no prescribed oversight. This would be concerning enough if tech were only experimenting on street lights and crossing signals, but Sacramento is one of many cities were tech is allowed to track homeless people like cattle; under the guise of directing them to social services, but often for the sole purpose of telling police where to go to harass people and destroy encampments. Why risk an embarrassing scandal that could touch the city and tech companies when they can claim their violent tactics were just tests and trials, failures to never again be repeated?

Tech is destructive enough when it follows the rules. Whether the Twitter tax break or rich techies snatching soccer fields from the Latinx community, tech is militant in its all-for-us-none-for-you quest. To such an extent that old-school downtown businesses have long felt threatened and wondered where their love was. Granting tech a separate, loosely regulated, easily manipulated, contract-free municipal-contract process is the newest instance of Democratic City Halls giving tech the keys to the kingdom and freedom to do whatever with them. At the expense of everyone else.

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