Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Gathering Support to Fix Philly's Political Borders

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, August 9 2011

A citizen-led effort to take the reins in redrawing Philadelphia's political lines has already attracted a surprising amount of support, and one city official's promise to listen.

In response to widespread pressure to pass a new map of city council districts that reflect population changes uncovered in the 2010 U.S. Census, the Philadelphia City Council has planned a public hearing on the redistricting process — but a leading city government watchdog tells me that many are not convinced a single hearing will ensure that public voices are heard. Philly-based mapping software firm Azavea — which has previously conducted a study that found Philadelphia's districts among the worst in the country when judged by traditional criteria — decided to host an open competition to draw the best map rather than wait for city officials to come up with one. The firm deployed the redistricting software they developed with the Public Mapping Project, District Builder, and used it to launch a contest to see what Philadelphia citizens could do. In partnership with media organizations like the public radio station WHYY, linked above, Azavea hosted a competition kickoff and software demo on Monday. WHYY reports that over 100 folks showed up, including City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, who promised to take the best maps to the council; the contest, accessible online, has already attracted over a dozen entries.

This year, good-government advocates across the country have mounted independent efforts to get greater citizen input on redistricting or seize the process from state and local legislatures, which often have the ability to slice up their own political turf in back-door meetings. There are online resources that explain the process and criteria for good districts, like the ones Azavea used in their previous study.

If the City Council doesn't approve a new map by Sept. 9, members' paychecks will be withheld until they do. Once they pass it, though, they can collect back pay — so the deadline is more of a guideline, really.

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

GO

wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

GO

The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

GO

tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

GO

Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

GO

monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

GO

More