Civic Footprint

For some time now I’ve been interested in the possibility of bringing together political information from all different layers of government and finding ways of layering it. Too few of us understand where the key decisions on the issues that concern or affect us are taken. Action at a local level can be a very powerful political tool it’s hard to find out which level is most appropriate, or to trace how issues move between layers. Unfortunately it can seem even harder to find well-structured data at more local levels than it is on a national level.

That’s why I was very interested to discover Civic Footprint, a project of the Center for Neighborhood Technology that provides a simple web interface (and since May 2006 an API) for residents of Cook County, Illinois to find out the ‘political geography’ of their address.

For users of the website those districts are matched up with representatives, so you can quickly find out who represents you on each level, and from there jump off to that representative’s website or wikipedia entry, or a Google News or Technorati search for them. It’d be nice if the congressional pages (such as this for Danny Davis (D)) were integrated with a site like govtrack for more targetted information that google or technorati can provide, but it’s still a great source of information.

It doesn’t look like the API will yet tell you who the representatives are for each of your districts, simply providing the IDs of those districts. Hopefully it will soon. It’ll be very interesting to see how the site develops, as it shows potential to become something of an example of how civic and political data can be made accessible and how services can be built on top of that.

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