Originally Published: February 3, 2011
New project opens up local government activity to information sharing by New Yorkers
New York City residents today gain a valuable new tool to keep track of money and politics in New York City government as Gotham Gazette unveils its new service, Councilpedia, published by Citizens Union Foundation.
Councilpedia ( www.gothamgazette.com/councilpedia) is a crowd sourcing wiki that allows New Yorkers to follow the campaign contributions and expenditures of elected officials, along with the decisions the officials make, and then share their knowledge of the possible connection between that cash flow and political decision making.
Gotham Gazette, an award winning publication on New York policy and politics published by Citizens Union Foundation, received a 2009 Knight News Challenge Grantof $250,000 to create Councilpedia.
Councilpedia includes a page for every member of the New York City Council, the public advocate and the city comptroller. It lists campaign contributors, categorized by sector, for the 2009 campaign cycle and the beginning of the 2013 campaign cycle. Also included is just-released raw data from the January 2011 filings, which will be categorized by sector in the coming months. Along with this, Councilpedia lists campaign expenditures and provides council members’ sponsored legislation, member items, campaign history and more, so that New Yorkers can get the complete picture – all in one location.
Beyond that, Councilpedia allows readers to share information and connect any dots between donors, the campaigns to which they contribute, and any possible related action taken by a New York City elected official. New Yorkers will be invited to post what they know about contributors or an action of an elected official. Did a contributor to a particular councilmember possibly benefit from a bill sponsored by that same councilmember? Councilpedia enables people with noteworthy information to share it with their fellow citizens.
Gotham Gazette staff will fact check information on donor affiliations, business and family relationships. Councilpedia will adhere to high standards of verified reporting.
Beyond its value as a resource for New York city voters, journalists and others concerned about civic life here, Gotham Gazette sees the project as a valuable test of whether crowd sourcing techniques can inform, enrich and expand coverage of local political issues.
Councilpedia was the work of Gotham Gazette staff, particularly city government editor Courtney Gross and technical manager W. JaVon Rice. Gail Robinson is editor in chief.
Published since 1999, Gotham Gazette has pioneered the use of the web to cover local policy and politics and is the recipient of two general excellence awards from the Online News Association, and a rare two-time winner of the Knight News Challenge.
Citizens Union Foundation of the City of New York, the non-profit research and education affiliate of Citizens Union which was founded in 1897, publishes Gotham Gazette in the belief that a well-informed citizenry is essential to a healthy democracy.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Since 1950, the foundation has granted more than $400 million to advance quality journalism and freedom of expression. Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote informed and engaged communities and lead to transformational change. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.