Now you can see the salaries (and overtime pay) of Philadelphia’s city employees. It’s one of the most high-profile datasets the city has released yet.
It’s also a long-awaited victory for open-data advocates: former Chief Data Officer Mark Headd wrote, way back in August 2014, that the dataset had been “targeted for release for more than a year.” (Last year Headd told Next City about a difficult meeting with the Finance Department about data releases.)
Chief Data Officer Tim Wisniewski and his two-person data team have been working with the Finance Department to get this data released — at the end of January, during an interview with Wisniewski and Mayor Jim Kenney, Wisniewski said the dataset was nearly ready.
Kenney said he supported releasing employee salary data.
“There’s no reason why [city employee] salary information shouldn’t be available,” Kenney told Technical.ly, turning to Wisniewski to ask him: “Who’s opposing that?” (To which Wisniewski replied: “Currently, no one. The Finance Department is pushing it through. We’re actually very close, believe it or not.”)
It’s a dataset that people often made right-to-know requests for, city spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said during the January interview. Now that the data has been released, the city will no longer have to work to fulfill those requests.
Wisniewski, whom colleagues have described as a master at navigating city bureaucracy, said that though his team has been talking about this data release for a long time, the release really came together over the last two months.
“It’s not an easy dataset,” he said. “These are real people. These are real departments. These are real concerns.”
He worked with the Finance Department to make sure that the release wouldn’t mistakenly identify undercover city employees with the Police Department or the District Attorney’s Office. They also worked to make sure city employees knew that this release was coming, reaching out to unions and department heads.
“We didn’t have to get buy in from each department, but we didn’t want them finding out from the press release,” he said.
He also said he had “a lot of support from the top,” including the Mayor, Chief Administrative Officer Rebecca Rhynhart and Finance Director Rob Dubow.-30-