Published on May 17, 2017
Councilmatic sheds light on government policy makers and their actions. An open-government app, Councilmatic increases transparency, improves accessibility, and illuminates the mysteries of city council.
DataMade recently launched a version of Councilmatic for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (known as “Metro”). Metro is not a city council, however. Metro is a group of representatives – the Board of Directors – who oversee the operations of Los Angeles transit services and transportation programs.
Due to the uniqueness of Metro, we modified Councilmatic to suit a Los-Angeles-specific constellation of needs. Happily, LA Metro Councilmatic spotlights the adaptability of the Councilmatic platform: it can be reshaped and freshly formed to serve government municipalities other than city council.
The Metro site has familiar Councilmatic elements, reworked and reimagined components, and entirely customized features. Take a look!
Like so many beloved DataMade projects, Councilmatic has a map. New York City Councilmatic displays 51 districts and their representative council members. And likewise, Chicago Councilmatic shows the City’s 50 wards and Aldermen. Each district or ward encapsulates a discrete geographic area, demarcated by separate, disentangled boundaries.
Metro has a more complex network. The Metro Board of Directors comprises representatives from three overlapping areas: districts, sectors, and the city itself. Each of the five districts of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has a representative; each sector (i.e., incorporated cities and unincorporated areas) has a representative appointed by the City Selection Committee; and the City of Los Angeles has representation from the mayor and three mayoral appointees.
Districts, sectors, city boundaries! A simple map did not suffice.
Our solution? We built three unique maps – differentiated by color, and toggle-able with the click of a button.
A user toggles the sector, district, and city maps on Metro Councilmatic
Describing the Metro Board of Directors and the actions in which they participate requires precise language. Thus, we had to massage the Councilmatic terminology to get sensical results.
For example, in New York and Chicago, individual people sponsor bills. Within Metro, committees, instead of individuals, enact policy – understood as “board reports,” rather than legislative actions. To show the connection between people and policy, we rewired the logic and highlighted the associations among the committees, the people on those committees, and the sponsored board reports.
A board of director page, showing the recent actions sponsored by committees to which the person belongs.
As with New York and Chicago city councils, the Metro board discusses, recommends, and approves policy changes. Each legislative action or, more exactly, each Metro board report comes with supporting documentation – everything from PowerPoint presentations to detailed budget information.
Similarly, every Metro meeting has an agenda, which describes the actions taken at a meeting and points to the relevant board reports and attachments.
Downloading individual attachments can be tiresome. And so, for Metro, we engineered a system that consolidates a collection of attachments into a single, easily downloadable “packet.” A board-report packet contains all supporting documents associated with that report, and an event packet contains all board reports to which the agenda refers.
A board report with all attachments downloadable as a single PDF file.
It’s a simple concept, but one that required a complex solution.
We built an app that listens for requests from the Metro site. The app stores the consolidated documents and returns a path to the PDF packets. Plus, every hour, the app identifies and creates new packets if necessary.
Councilmatic stretches from coast to coast. You can get involved in city politics while eating a pastrami taco in New York City, riding a Divvy along the Lakefront Trail in Chicago, and now catching a bus to take a surf lesson in Santa Monica. Where will Councilmatic go next?