Meet Joe Camicia.
He’s 61, grew up in Alameda, graduated from San Francisco State, lives in downtown and has worked in public policy for more than 30 years.
He started a consulting practice after working for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as an advisor on policy for the Public Utilities Commission and as chief of staff for the Office of the State Chief Information Officer. In his work as a consultant, he saw an opportunity to bring the collective intelligence of the Internet into the governance process.
“Lots of lobbyists I’ve been talking to in the last year are somewhat concerned and nervous they don’t have all the necessary online skills,” Joe explained to Allen Young of the Sacramento Business Journal in 2014. “That’s why I thought this was an important service to provide to them in a turnkey sort of way.”
Traditional public affairs comes with limitations: a television advertisement may take a month to create and its effectiveness hard to gauge, direct mail may be ignored and town halls are a painstakingly slow way to collect constituent contact information.
He says that while political consultants and advisors like to stick to what they know, they’re coming around to a new model. It is easier to build coalitions online, analyze support for a proposed bill or initiative and adjust along the way.
“It’s been a lot of fun building something new,” he says now. “We can make instant changes based on real-time feedback.”
We met at Lucca Restaurant and Bar in December to talk about the city of Sacramento and his thoughts on the news.
Joe moved to Sacramento in 2003 and feels re-invigorated by a new wave of young professionals capitalizing on the opportunity to reshape the city and state.
“There’s a willingness to let people try ideas,” he says.
Sacramento is “more alive now” with a vibrant music scene and a dynamic food sector. He’d like to see a similar emphasis in politics and technology.
“I think Sacramento, as a region, has a lot of potential,” he says.
He considers political news coverage ripe for growth and innovation.
He’d like to see someone create a podcast like “Serious Talk. Seriously” with a host like Johnny Flores for politics. He thinks the capitol press corps too often covers the same stories. He suspects reporters are too worried about protecting sources and are afraid to call bullshit. He wishes TV stations would simply cover the capitol at all.
He loves newspapers — he romanticizes catching the newspaper from the paperboy in the morning — and believes they’re going to stick around. He hopes they can find a new, sustainable business model.
“Things in this space happen so fast,” he says. “If you don’t keep up, you can get lost.”
Joe answered the following questions by email about how he gets the news. Text submitted November 4.
How do you get your news?
I get news first on Twitter. I follow people I think are at the forefront — the San Jose Mercury News is great on Twitter. Carla Marinucci, FiveThirtyEight, The Nooner, Adweek and Techwire are all sources I appreciate on Twitter.
What’s the first news event you remember?
I was 6 during the Kennedy-Nixon election. I remember going to the polls with my parents and watching the returns on TV.
What’s the last great thing you ate?
The #19 pastrami, Swiss cheese, cole-slaw, Russian dressing sandwich at Langer’s (7th and Alvarado in LA). Nothing is better. In town, Mayahuel is consistently very good and consistently underrated. The new Thai Orchid on 16th is also very good.
Who’s doing it right in news?
I have high hopes for CALmatters. The capitol press corps has shrunk the last 30 years and, when George Skelton and Dan Walters hang ’em up, perspective will be in short supply. CALmatters is non-partisan and non-profit, so hopefully they will pursue stories others won’t.
The Mercury News is consistently good online and in print. The Nooner covers what it covers better than anyone. I’m particularly proud of Bill Maile at TechWire. He created a must-read out of thin air.
Name the three most important issues facing Sacramento.
Leadership, leadership and leadership. As a former city council member (Alameda), I know local government is where we need courage but rarely get it. Honest to God, every mayor or council member thinks he/she is two elections away from being a US senator or governor, so they are reluctant to take any risks. Local government though is where you can see the fastest improvement— if you’re willing to take a risk to make change.
What do you absolutely hate about the news?
Like everybody else, I despise the local TV network affiliates. With the exception of an annual ride to Blue Canyon to look at snow fall, I get the impression that if news happens more than 10 miles from the studio– it ain’t news. It’s a real shame because local TV news is THE news available to the low-income. It could be/should be better than video of car crashes and fires. A little leadership would go a long way here too.
What’s the most important issue to you that’s not being covered well enough?
The impact of poverty on this community. When I first moved here, poverty was a South Sacramento thing or a North Highlands problem. As the middle class shrinks, poverty is expanding to other areas of town. Whenever jobs move out of town (Campbell Soup) it should be viewed as a disaster but it rarely rates more than 60 seconds on the local news. It happens to someone else.
If you could be anywhere, an-hour-and-a-half drive away, where would you be?
Watching the Giants at AT&T Park.