Mark Headd, Philadelphia’s first Chief Data Officer from the fall of 2012 to April 2013, has finally explained why he left the position. It happened after a squabble with the city’s Revenue Department commissioner after Headd’s team built a real-time dataset of property tax balances.
Though the city built an API that would allow sharing of real-time data with other city agencies, Revenue Department commissioner Clarena Tolson wouldn’t allow the data to be released. Headd says the city has issued permits to tax delinquents who owe millions.
Since January, the city has run an online tax clearance tool, requiring permit applicants to certify they’re up-to-date on their taxes. Headd told Technically Philly this was a backwards solution and said the city was “constantly using 20th century answers to problems that required a 21st century solution.”
Tolson says the online clearance tool has collected $300,000 in property taxes since its launch.