Jerry Brito, a regulatory and information expert at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, has already taken a stab at this sort of site. StimulusWatch.org scraped data from a national mayoral organization’s list of 11,000 “shovel-ready” city improvement projects scattered across the country—projects that, the mayors claimed, were ready to absorb federal stimulus funding. The site allows users to provide project details from local sources, expanding on the brief capsule descriptions provided by the mayors. It also allows citizens to rank and debate the worthiness of any given project.
“The debate aspect is what is the most attractive to most people,” says Brito, who plans to include whatever federal data is made available.
While there’s no guarantee that any of the mayors’ projects will end up funded by the stimulus, the Web site shows one way how stimulus projects might be tracked and judged by the public.
“Transparency is a means to an end, and that end is accountability,” says Brito.
DISCLOSURE: The Sunlight Foundation provides financial support to the Columbia Journalism Review’s transparency coverage.