We believe in the importance of local government.
Thomas Jefferson put it best when he said “the government closest to the people serves the people best.” That’s because local elected officials live in the communities they serve. They are accessible and accountable to their neighbors for decisions that affect our shared everyday experience, fostering civic partnership between the government and the governed. Yet the ability of community members to fully participate in that partnership depends upon the strength of the information at their disposal.
In Silicon Valley we are fortunate to have strong local daily newspapers covering local government closely. We are less fortunate that none of our cities and towns have the scale or budget to provide in-depth analysis of policy proposals. How can cities with revenues in the $100Ms adequately respond to companies with revenues in the $100Bs? How can planning departments with a handful of staff evaluate commercial development proposals as big as their city budgets? What’s missing is in-depth professional analysis.
The Embarcadero Institute is a 501C3 non-profit organization that publishes analysis that gives context to local policy. It does this by providing evidence of existing conditions, analyzing the potential impacts of legislation and communicating those findings. It seeks to make policy tangible, helping people understand what it means on the ground, not only for themselves and their neighbors but also for the broader community.
Data Snapshots &
We work with data scientists to provide snapshots of existing conditions for cities in Silicon Valley, and trends when those trends yield interesting insights about city dynamics. Data can paint a picture of a community, but that picture can become muddied when different datasets tell different stories, so we where possible we work with government-sourced data.
We work with licensed professional planners to analyze potential impact of legislation. State legislators have increasingly sought to centralize land use decision-making in Sacramento, reducing the ability of small cities to influence the look, feel, and make up of their built environment. We feel it is important to understand how a one-size-fits-all approach to land use impacts our environment.
Civic Education & Engagement
We support Palo Alto Matters as a local resource to get up to speed on what’s going on in city government. We know most folks don’t have the time or patience to sift through staff reports, attend frequent city meetings, or become expert in local policy, but that shouldn’t exclude them from civic engagement. Through news, analysis and commentary, Palo Alto Matters boils down the issues, highlights neighborhood concerns, and lets people know how they can weigh in on local matters.