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First Web-based Redistricting Contest Launched in Philadelphia for the Public to Create City Council District Plans

August 6, 2011

FixPhillyDistricts.com enables the public to draw their own district maps and submit them for judging, prizes, and a chance to be published in local news media.

Philadelphia, PA (PRWEB) August 05, 2011

Azavea, a geospatial analysis (GIS) software development company announces the launch of FixPhillyDistricts.com, the first online public redistricting contest ever held in Philadelphia. The contest, which ends on Sunday, August 28 at 11:59pm ET, is the result of efforts led by NewsWorks, the Philadelphia Daily News, Philly.com, the Penn Project for Civic Engagement, and Azavea. The main goals of the contest are to both encourage civic engagement in the legislative redistricting effort and to provide tools for the public to learn about the redistricting process. A second important goal is to demonstrate that a non-partisan and open, public process based upon objective criteria can produce fair, legal council districts in Philadelphia. The top scoring plan will receive a $500 cash prize. Up to four runners-up will receive Amazon Kindles. Selected plans may be published in local news media outlets.

Under the City Charter, Philadelphia Council has six months to adjust the ten council district boundaries based on the results of the decennial census. Philadelphia Council must ensure that each district has about 10 percent of the population – 152,600 people by the latest count. But in 2006 and 2010, Azavea set out to research council districts nation-wide. The results of this research, published in two white papers available on the RedistrictingTheNation.com website (http://www.redistrictingthenation.com/), ranked some of Philadelphia’s districts some of the most convoluted in the nation.

Now, despite having pledged themselves to a more open, public process, Philadelphia Council only announced this week that the first public hearing would be held on August 16, which only leaves 3 weeks before the September 9 deadline for presenting a new set of district boundaries. Therefore, the Fix Philly Districts partners are encouraging the public and civic groups to use the site in order to draw their own district plans, and prove that a non-partisan and collaborative redistricting process can produce fairer districts.

“We don’t want our hometown to be the place that has the worst districts in the country anymore,” said Robert Cheetham, Azavea’s CEO and President, “and we believe that the public can make a positive contribution toward better districts, better representation, and better democracy for Philadelphia.”

After completing a free registration, users can create, edit, save, and share district plans. They can also draw communities of interest and evaluate their plan against them, as well as evaluate how closely their finished plan matches legal redistricting requirements set forth in the Philadelphia City Charter. The system automatically calculates contiguity, compactness, and population statistics on-the-fly as users build their plans. Azavea used DistrictBuilder (http://www.azavea.com/districtbuilder), the open source software they developed in collaboration with leading redistricting experts at the Public Mapping Project (http://www.publicmapping.org/). DistrictBuilder has already supported public redistricting efforts for the states of Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Arizona and Virginia, but this is the first time it is being used for a city contest.

A free, public workshop will be held at WHYY ““ 150 N. 6th Street, Philadelphia, PA ““ on Monday, August 8 at 7:00pm to learn about the legislative redistricting process in Philadelphia, what is at stake, and how the public can get their voice heard by participating in the Fix Philly Districts contest. Azavea will also host a training webinar on Thursday, August 11 at 6:30pm. For more information, visit: http://fixphillydistricts.com/

About Azavea – Azavea is an award-winning geospatial analysis (GIS) software development firm specializing in the creation of location-based web and mobile software as well as geospatial analysis services. Azavea is a certified B Corporation that applies geographic data and technology to promote the emergence of more dynamic, vibrant, and sustainable communities. Each of Azavea’s projects, products and pro bono engagements showcases this commitment. For more information, http://www.azavea.com.

About NewsWorks – NewsWorks is the online home of WHYY News and its growing network of journalism partners. This public media service covers the Philadelphia region, Delaware and South Jersey, with a focus on regional issues, neighborhoods, health and science, and arts. For more information, http://www.newsworks.org/

About Penn Project for Civic Engagement – The Penn Project for Civic Engagement develops, implements and facilitates public deliberations on important policy issues. We bring stakeholders together to identify and act on problems in their community, business or organization. Our structured dialogues unite stakeholder values with expert knowledge and leadership to produce momentum for real solutions. For more information, http://www.gse.upenn.edu/pcel/programs/ppce

About Philadelphia Daily News – http://phillydailynews.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx

About Philly.com – http://www.philly.com/

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For the original version on PRWeb visit: http://www.prweb.com/releases/prweb2011/8/prweb8697213.htm


Source: prweb



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