This is an abridged version of an article from the Committee of Seventy’s Pat Christmas, as part of a series of guest posts about Code for Philly’s Civic Engagement Launchpad. The unabridged version can be found here, on Code for Philly’s website.
Much of the political power in Philadelphia still resides in the ward system. Want to run for Municipal Court judge? Sheriff? City Council? Most elected offices in the city aren’t attainable without working through the wards. The city is divided into 69, each with Democratic and Republican ward leaders elected by partisan committeepeople. These folks are the infrastructure of Philly’s oft-mentioned political machinery — and not many people know who they are.
So where does civic hacking come in?
PhillyWardLeaders.com was created in 2015 as part of Code for Philly’s Apps for Democracy hackathon and is the best online resource on ward politics in the city. The app features ward leader profiles, committeeperson lists, voter turnout data and a 101 on how partisan wards work. It’s also a case in point for how products that emerge from this year’s Civic Engagement Launchpad, a monthlong event instead of a weekend sprint, can confer enormous benefits on Philadelphia’s civic life.
The next major upgrade could include a system to maintain updated committeeperson lists with phone, email and social media contacts. With four-year terms, committeepeople slots turnover constantly. It’s a fair bet that no up-to-date list of ward leaders and committeepeople for the city has ever existed. PhillyWardLeaders.com would have the first.