PPF Blog

Announcing Councilmatic and NYC Councilmatic

New project homepage for Councilmatic, ready to roll out nationwide.

New project homepage for Councilmatic, ready to roll out nationwide.

Today from the Code For America Summit, we’re excited to launch our new non-profit project Councilmatic. Finally, a version of OpenCongress for cities is here.

Our new version of the site is first launching for our beloved home base of New York City: NYC Councilmatic, a free & open-source website for transparency and engagement with the NYC Council. Track and understand what’s happening in NYC government.

The goal of Councilmatic is to make it easier for NYC residents to follow, share and discuss local lawmaking and how it affects their communities.

NYC Councilmatic homepage - track legislation, members, events and more, for public dialogue in NYC.

NYC Councilmatic homepage – track legislation, members, events and more, for public dialogue in NYC.

NYC Councilmatic has created the first-ever open-data source for everything in the NYC Council: legislation, members, committees, public events, and more. Read more about our data sources and get in touch to contribute to our open, libre data offerings.

Contact us to discuss how we can help bring Councilmatic to your area! We can perform similar open data work and stand up free versions of Councilmatic in more cities, counties, and states. Get in touch to find out how – we hope to roll out versions of Councilmatic nationwide, free & open-source for local groups and city council offices.


NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito's profile page on NYC Councilmatic

NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s profile page on NYC Councilmatic

Text us! Councilmatic has partnered with the NYC-based HeartGov on an SMS program for greater accessibility. Anyone can text 646-846-IDEA (846-4332) and they’ll be guided through a brief text-messaging process that responds to their idea. Read more about HeartGov.

History & Credits 

NYC Councilmatic is a project of the Participatory Politics Foundation, a NYC-based 501(c)3 non-profit organization, with tech leads DataMade. Our work is supported by a grant from the Rita Allen Foundation.

NYC Councilmatic is non-profit and non-partisan, with a mission to increase civic engagement. The Participatory Politics Foundation (PPF) is based at the Civic Hall coworking space in Manhattan, and is an active member of BetaNYC, the local CFA Brigade. Previously, PPF created OpenCongress for federal legislative tracking, OpenGovernment.org for state-level engagement, and AskThem.io for questions-and-answers with every U.S. elected official. DataMade is a leading civic technology company based in Chicago and created the Chicago version of Councilmatic.

Councilmatic was created by Mjumbe Poe during his time as a 2011 Code For America Fellow in Philadelphia. It was the first fully-developed open-data site for municipal legislation in the U.S. DataMade adapted this code to launch ChicagoCouncilmatic.org in 2013, as a free public resource. In 2015, DataMade re-factored the Councilmatic code and created new open data to enable PPF to launch NYC Councilmatic, and launch the first city-council open-government resource for NYC. Mjumbe Poe is a non-profit Advisor, with more to be named soon on a diverse Advisory Council.

Public-Dialogue Program

Below are some of the ways NYC Councilmatic is a unique resource for online engagement in cities:

First, there has been no source of open data for most U.S. city governments, including legislation and public meetings. In fact, a website like NYC Councilmatic has not been possible until now, due to a lack of open city government data. We seek to create this open data layer for U.S. cities nationwide, as a free & libre public resource. Many innovative tools for engagement and public accountability can be built on top of this shared foundation.

Second, NYC Councilmatic offers a contemporary web interface for searching and tracking local legislation. Currently, NYC Councilmatic is the only open-data site with information about all city legislation (including both plain-language summaries and full text), committees dealing with issues, and council members’ districts, all in one place. Our site is designed for public comment, user-focused advanced search, and social sharing. Next, we’ll be enhancing our tracking & alert features – there’s lots of work to do, get in touch to help us build open-source tools.

Third, NYC Councilmatic will start a new public dialogue program with participating city council offices, community groups, local media, and NYC residents. We’re asking every NYC Council office to volunteer to become “verified” on Councilmatic, free for everyone. The “verified” commitment is to respond to public comments at least once per month, taking just one hour of staff time, on an item of featured legislation or an issue in the news.

City council offices: contact us to volunteer to be verified, it takes less than a minute – there’s no cost and no contract. NYC constituents, ask your council members’s offices to become “verified” and participate in at least one monthly comment program with your neighborhood. The effect of this program will be to close the feedback loop between residents and city council offices on local community priorities – for example, those of community boards and public housing authorities.

Creating an Open Data Layer for City Government

NYC Councilmatic created, uses, and generates open data in the Open Civic Data community standard. In this way, it’s unique in offering open data for further non-profit and for-profit developers to re-use, remix, and analyze, thereby creating new insights and innovative tools for engagement. Contact us for more information about how to achieve similar open data in your area.

Bring Councilmatic To Your City 

We seek to roll out Councilmatic nationwide as a free and open-data public resource. There are a number of ways to create a version of Councilmatic in your area, including charitable funding support for our open-source programming time – contact us to discuss more. Email David Moore of the non-profit Participatory Politics Foundation, david at ppolitics.org, and DataMade, info at datamade dot us.

HeartGov – Facilitated SMS Outreach in NYC

Councilmatic’s partnership with the HeartGov startup makes it easier for people to quickly deliver ideas and questions to city elected officials from their mobile devices. By texting their feedback to 646-846-IDEA, NYC residents will be connected with human organizers who will help deliver their issue to the relevant government entity or council office. HeartGov has been previously been deployed by government partners in Brooklyn, NY and Austin, TX, for wider accessibility of official government info – see their FAQ for more details. Our goal is continual, reciprocal connection with local elected officials, in ways that are timely and valuable.

Supported By the Rita Allen Foundation 

The Rita Allen Foundation invests in transformative ideas in their earliest stages to leverage their growth and promote breakthrough solutions to significant problems. It enables early-career biomedical scholars to do pioneering research, seeds innovative approaches to fostering informed civic engagement, and develops knowledge and networks to build the effectiveness of the philanthropic sector. Throughout its work, the Foundation embraces collaboration, creativity, learning and leadership.

Thank you to everyone at Rita Allen for making NYC Councilmatic possible.

Contact Us With Questions & Feedback

Contact us anytime – email info at councilmatic.org, or david at ppolitics.org. 

Follow our new account: @councilmatic on Twitter and RT my announcement from earlier today.

Like our new project FB page and share our announcement post from earlier today.

Huge thanks to incredible team at DataMade for making this happen. It was a thrill to work with everyone and look forward to building more together. Contact DataMade, email: info at datamade dot us.

And I’m @ppolitics on Twitter. More info, features, alerts, and council explainers to come, hope you’ll stay tuned.

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