Author Archives: polunsky

About polunsky

Have a Seat at the Table

Chair, Agricultural Museum, Texas State Capitol I can’t physically get you a seat at the table as policy is formed, but I can do the next best thing. New this session of the Texas Legislature, adding value through the Texas A&M Transportation Institute by applying transparency practices to transportation policy. This effort includes:

  1. Providing daily updates for a list of transportation bills filed, sorted by category, at
  2. Tweeting a list of the day’s new transportation bills via @StevenPolunsky
  3. Blogging to provide background, analysis, and behind the scenes insight at
  4. Liveblogging legislative hearings at
  5. Packaging all or some of the above along with featured research in a newsletter (subscribe at
  6. Responding to questions posted through the above and other social media channels
  7. Preparing live seminars for Legislators, staff, and the public on timely issues.
  8. Maintaining our interim legislative activity tracker at
  9. Keeping our list of what passed and what didn’t from prior sessions at
  10. Seeking other opportunities to augment transparency in the legislative process.

Describe a City in One Word

I am quoted in this story about a Georgia city’s experiment with social media.

Dunwoody, GA city council

“According to Steven Polunsky at the Scholars Strategy Network at Texas A&M University, social media breaks down barriers between government officials such as Wescott and the public they serve.

“Polunsky said innovations such as Facebook and Twitter allow the public to express opinions and share information readily with officials and vice versa. …

“What if there were an easy way for citizens to share opinions with decision makers at optimal moments, when their views might really count?” Polunsky said. “New forms of social media may offer just such opportunities.”

DOD Social Media Privacy Setting Advice

Title: DOD Online Privacy Smart Cards

The Department of Defense has a series of “Smart Cards” with advice for online privacy settings. There are no security restrictions on these cards, so they can be shared publicly.  The Public Intelligence website has posted a number of them that were released around March of 2015.

The cards are designed for military or people in sensitive positions. Each card has two pages of advice with suggestions about avatars, connections, personal and family posts, and specific privacy settings for a number of platforms.  These links are to the documents in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format at Public Intelligence.

Evolution of an Unintentional Sex App

Bullet list with Sexually Oriented Business

The mission of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is to serve the people of Texas, and protect the public health and safety, through consistent, fair and timely administration of the Alcoholic Beverage Code.  According to the Legislative Budget Board‘s Fiscal Size-up, the purpose of the TABC is “to deter violations of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code by inspecting licensed establishments within the alcoholic beverage industry, investigating complaints, regulating the personal importation of alcoholic beverages and cigarettes through the state’s ports-of-entry locations with Mexico and the seaport at Galveston, and enforcing state law.”

In August of 2016, TABC released an app that “allows members of the public to do their part to promote public safety by reporting breaches of the peace and other incidents which occur inside businesses licensed by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.”app screenshot showing gender icons labeled Sexually Oriented

The app allows the user to perform a location-based search for permit holders in various categories. Here is a screen-shot of the app as it was initially rolled out in soft public release:

The maker of the app, Neubus, highlighted its features:

  • Search for Businesses – Find nearby restaurants and businesses that sell alcohol, including narrowing searches based on permit type, status (active or inactive), or business type (bar, brewery, restaurant, hotel, etc.)
  • Interactive Map – See basic information such as business name, address, directions from your location and street-level view of the business.
  • Pending Permits – View pending original license/permits in your area.
  • Complaints – Report TABC-licensed businesses which sell after hours, to minors, or over serve; also inform the TABC about establishments condoning gambling, drug use, prostitution or human trafficking
  • Feedback – Provide feedback about TABC employees and TABC certification schools
  • Violation History – Identify what alcohol permit violations have occurred, including sales to minors or other violations.

TABC issues permits for certain sexually-oriented businesses in part to assist in the enforcement of laws against the sale of beer on premises where acts that are lewd, immoral, or offensive to public decency occur. However, the ability to search for the nearest sexually oriented business raised some concern among the public.

TABC quickly responded by App screenshot with gender icons labeled Miscellaneousrolling the sexually oriented businesses into the Miscellaneous category, but without changing the icon for that category. This oversight muddled things briefly, until that oversight was corrected with the final version.

The final version is now available without charge in the iTunes App Store and on Google Play for Android. app screenshot showing asterisk icon labeled Miscellaneous

Engage Constituents with Social Media

This is an excellent, quick how-to guide for elected officials on using social media to connect with constituents, from the official’s perspective. “Conversations & Constituents: Using Social Media to Engage and Influence” was given by Maura Devine of Kivvit to the National Conference of State Legislatures‘ Legislative Summit, August 2016, and is also online at

Conversations & ConstituentsScreen shot of slides