I’m a longtime advocate for transparency in government. Back in 2009, I attended the first-ever transparency camp. Earlier this month, I attended the Investigative Reporters & Editors annual conference. So my antennae went up when I read Philadelphia City Council had fast-tracked a bill to authorize the City to buy land on which to build a new prison.
I helped mobilize a coalition of journalists, advocacy groups and activists to stop what would have been a $7.26 million down payment on the school-to-prison pipeline. I was particularly concerned about the lack of transparency. The bill to authorize the City to purchase the land was introduced by Councilman Bobby Henon on April 30. Two months later, we still don’t know who owns the property at 7777 State Road.
On the same day that Henon tabled his bill, the Philadelphia Daily News reported the land is contaminated with nuclear waste.
The school-to-prison bill is dead, for now. City Council is on summer recess, but the battle for transparency and accountability continues. So on September 10, I will launch @PHLWatchdog, a citizen-led initiative to monitor and report on what the City is doing with our money.
Philly taxpayers have a right to know how their money is being spent. We will use social media to share information and calls to action. We will shine a light on government spending because sunlight is the best disinfectant.
Got tips? Send all tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. For updates, follow @PHLWatchdog on Twitter.