Friday, July 3, 2015

The Week in Howl

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On Monday, with moderate fanfare, we launched City Howl, a new website where Philadelphians can go to review city services. The idea here is to hold city government accountable by evaluating it publicly, the same way we review restaurants and other services.

So, what happened in the first week of Howl?

Well, here’s an easy one: City Council is not popular thus far. Twenty-two of 24 reviewers give Council one star, and the word “embarrassment” comes up more than once. I’ll tell you what I’d like to see: Reviews that focus on interactions with specific council members. You know the old adage about how Americans generally give Congress a bad rating, but like their local representatives? I wonder if that phenomenon is in play here. Maybe not. But tell us about your attempts, as constituents, to get help from Bill Greenlee, Joan Krajewski, Curtis Jones etc.

What else? Well, a couple of people went to the PPA page and complained about frequent illegal parking in their neighborhoods — one even gave a specific location. PPA, can we get some help? SEPTA’s reviews aren’t bad (!), though EastChestnut would like to see a bit more service on the 66 Trolley line. A few people have had problems contacting the Water Department. And, surprisingly, there’s not a single review of DHS.

The only reviewed service that no one said a bad word about? The Fire Department.

It’s early, though, and while Howl has gotten a good response, a lot more people — I mean a LOT more people — have used city services. Give us your stories: The time you called L&I about the abandoned property next door, the time you tried to get a permit for your block party (I don’t even know who you'd ask about that. Streets? Maybe call 311?). If you’re willing to leave names or details, it improves the chance that someone, either from It’s Our Money, the Daily News, or the city, will follow up on your comment. Go to Howl.

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About this blog
Every year, city government spends slightly more than $4 billion. Where does all that money come from? More importantly, where does it go? Are we getting the most bang for our tax buck? “It's Our Money” is a joint project between Philadelphia Daily News and WHYY, funded by the William Penn Foundation, designed to answer these questions.

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