With the largest field of candidates in Chicago history running for mayor, mayoral candidate Neal Sáles-Griffin created an interactive city budget and searchable questions platforms to help voters make informed decisions on choosing from the 14 candidates on the ballot for Tuesday’s election.
Sáles-Griffin, CEO of the nonprofit CodeNow in Chicago, defied the standard for traditional candidate forums and developed an online forum of candidate responses to questions about issues such as education, housing, police and taxes.
Sáles-Griffin was inspired to launch the new tools as he campaigned, talking to more than 10,000 Chicago residents on the streets and hearing what mattered to them, he stated in a press release.“Chicago’s problems come back to corrupt leadership and corrupt finances,” Sáles-Griffin stated. “I want everyone to hold their elected officials accountable by following the money.”
The analysis on the budget platform, covers more than $22 billion of the city’s 2018 budget, with half controlled by the mayor and the other half controlled by departments. His campaign volunteers worked for months aggregating data from publicly available records, allowing taxpayers to see where every dollar goes. Users can specifically review revenue and expenditures of each municipal department to see if elected officials invest on issues that matter to them.
“When you go to the City of Chicago budget, it’s very hard to understand how exactly officials are spending and what they are spending on,” said Kristen Sanders, part of media relations team for Sáles-Griffin’s campaign. “The reporting is not transparent and these tools has laid a very serious ground work to make sure that people know how the money is spent.”
In addition to the budget tool, the question app is designed to help voters easily find out candidates’ positions on various issues by aggregating data from 247 questions created by news outlets. Users can search by issue and see where each of the candidates stand on the same question.
— Neal Sáles-Griffin (@nealsales) February 26, 2019
“Neal’s campaign has always been about getting people activated and getting people to vote, ensuring about the politics in the city,” Sanders said. “So he really put a lot of efforts, trying to make sure that every voters see all the candidates and how they respond to tons of questions versus one.”
Here is how the forum platform looks on the website.
Chicagoan Adele Botti, who voted Tuesday morning, said the platform contributes to voters’ knowledge about what candidates stand for.
“But I also want to know which candidates are telling the truth in their answers,” Botti said. “It will be helpful to know how the candidates voted on these very same issues in the past if they were aldermen or worked in the government.”
Due to the low turnout, about 34 percent, in the 2015 general municipal elections, Sáles-Griffin stressed the need for transparency for voters.
“We need to elect leaders who are obsessed with Chicago’s problems, and who will take our city’s issues home at night,” Sáles-Griffin stated in the press release.