Issue #196, August 11, 1999  

Keeping An Eye On Washington

By Stephen Lawton

      Some people are afraid to fly. Others fear spiders or snakes. Still others recoil in terror from anything that comes from Washington. (In some cases, the operative Washington is DC; for others, it's Redmond. Take your pick.)
     This month MicroTimes tries to ease at least some of those fears - the ones associated with trying to decode the bureaucracies in the Nation's Capital and point to you to the people in a position to help you, the business executive, get the information you need to be successful. It's not always easy figuring out who's who in a city where putting yourself out to help someone usually gets you shot, figuratively speaking. But in our cover story, Chris Barnett has succeeded in putting a face, and phone number, with these faceless bureaucracies.
     You might think California's senators would be among the most active in technology issues. Unfortunately, they're not. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's biography on her home page speaks in great detail about her work to fight crime, save the environment and address other important social issues. Our junior senator, Barbara Boxer, also spends a lot of time working on legislation to fight crime and save the environment. These efforts are laudable. But what do they mean to technology companies in California?
     The net result is that important issues affecting the engine that's driving California's economy and the health and well-being of a large number of California residents are in the hands of senators with allegiances to other states. For example, members of the Senate's Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee come from traditionally technology-oriented states such as Texas and Massachusetts, but also from Alaska, Mississippi and North Dakota, which are not thought of as high-tech meccas. Sure, Sen. Boxer, the Budget Committee is important - no argument there. And yes, Sen. Feinstein, I'm sure the Committee on Rules and Administration is fascinating. But what are you doing under the bright lights to fuel California's technology sector and promote California's Internet interests in Washington?
     In the House, seven of the 47 members of the Committee on Science - 15 percent - hail from California, with three of 22 members of the Technology Subcommittee coming from our state. It's nice to know we have a real voice on technology issues, at least in the House. And what about those presidential candidates? George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore make their ritual treks to California to dig deep into the pockets of the technology companies and individuals. But when it comes time tell Californians what their plans are to address the key issues facing small to midsize businesses and the technology sector, they are nowhere to be found - both declined to talk to MicroTimes.
      I hope the next time the candidates - any candidates - come to California looking for spare change, you're there to ask the hard questions about real issues facing this state's technology sector and small business. They wouldn't answer us, and we represent roughly a quarter-million readers. I hope they answer you.



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