Philadelphia Enterprise Reporting Awards: The Power Map of Philadelphia

philadelphia enterprise reporting awards report year one

The Power Map of Philadelphia

Project Websites:

  Philly.com

  Technically Philly

The Power Map of Philadelphia is an interactive guide to the 29 often-mysterious boards and commissions that wield government power and control public money in Philadelphia. The map tells you what these boards do and who sits on them. It contains information on board service, such as when board members were appointed, length of term and compensation. Biographical information also exists, including former income sources, family members and additional board and individual affiliations. On the map, blue dots are boards, orange dots are board members, and green dots are appointing authorities.

"There is definitely more we’d like to do with the Power Map. In fact, we think the $5,000 award was a good ‘get something off the ground’ award and enough to get us started on a larger accountability project."
- Project Partners

The map allows one to see the connections between board members and the power players who appoint them by searching the database for information about board members’ income sources and affiliations. For instance, if you’d like to see the board members connected to the law firm Ballard Spahr, type “Ballard Spahr” into the search box, and a list of members connected to the firm will pop up.

Daily News Editorial Page Editor Sandra Shea spearheaded the project with Doron Taussig of the paper’s “It’s Our Money” team. The partners discussed what information to include. It’s Our Money reporters requested data, combed through financial disclosure forms and built a database to enter the information.

Shea and WHYY’s Dave Davies and Chris Satullo guided reporters when they ran into roadblocks. Mateo Rando from the Fels Institute contributed some research. The design of the map involved technical experts and journalists from the Daily News and Philly.com. The project hired a Haverford College coder to build the map; all the partners weighed in with feedback. The Power Map team has not yet done a publicity push on the map. They are still collecting feedback.

"One important piece of the partnership hasn’t actually occurred yet: The journalism that will get done surrounding the Power Map”
- Project Partners

“The map’s functionality is good but we think the aesthetic presentation could be strengthened,” the partners reported. “One important piece of the partnership hasn’t actually occurred yet: The journalism that will get done surrounding the Power Map.”

The partnership may add some new academic partners to help analyze and do stories on the map’s data.

The award’s amount and timeframe were “appropriate” but that’s because the partners designed the project to fit the award’s specifications. For instance, because of time and resource constraints, they did not include campaign finance contributions in the data.

“There is definitely more we’d like to do with the Power Map. In fact, we think the $5,000 award was a good ‘get something off the ground’ award and enough to get us started on a larger accountability project,” the team reported. To that end, the team suggests a “tiered” award process in which applicants can apply for larger awards after successfully completing earlier stages of projects.