Town Hall Project Promotes Political Accountability
For citizens who want to keep track of their local government’s activities and policies, the only option was constant proactive engagement… until Town Hall Project was launched in January 2017. Borne out of a Google spreadsheet, the site will tell you—based on your zip code—who your representatives are and when they’re holding town halls. With this data, users can engage directly with their representatives, holding them accountable and making their wishes known in the most accessible public forum available.
Megan, the lead developer on the project, attends council events in her area whenever possible. She says it’s empowering to stand in the same room with big decision makers—who can sometimes seem like fictional personalities we only know from television—but in fact, she reminds us, “your representatives are supposed to work for you.” At a town hall meeting dialogue is encouraged, and citizens can ask questions and get answers from their representatives on the issues they care about, from immigration to tax policy and more.
Over 100 volunteers compile the data you’ll find on the Town Hall Project’s platform (which currently covers 9 state legislatures with an eye toward increasing expansion). A nonpartisan effort, their focus is accessibility and accountability of individual citizens and the policymakers who represent them. By opening access to these sometimes-secretive events, the project seeks to level the playing field and let all members of a representative’s constituency make their opinions and voices heard.
At the hackathon, THP integrated an existing volunteer submission form into their public website. Volunteers will now be able to submit new events and receive notifications if the event has already been submitted (hopefully eliminating duplicate events). This will optimize an existing process where a third party admin must approve and re-enter all publicly submitted data.
You can contribute to the Town Hall Project by logging town hall meetings in your area and attending them! According to THP partner Indivisible, being present at town halls and related events is the number one way to make an impact in your government. Volunteers can find THP at Codefellows on Tuesday nights, or access the project’s GitHub through DemocracyLab.