Who Are the Best and Worst Ward Leaders in Philly?

A new website helps sort them.

Screenshot from PhillyWardLeaders.com.

Screenshot from PhillyWardLeaders.com.

The wonderful people at Code for Philly have created a fun new website about Philadelphia’s ward leaders. You may have thought, quite reasonably, that such a feat was impossible. Ward leaders are many things, but “fun” is not usually one of them.

But fun they are—when turned into virtual baseball cards that can be sorted and ranked on metrics such as voter turnout and the total number of vacancies in committee people ranks. 

Now, headline hyperbole aside, there’s a lot more to being a good or bad ward leader than turnout totals and low vacancy numbers. Some sections of the city have always voted in low numbers, for a variety of reasons ranging from demographics to long histories of civic engagement (or disengagement). Carol Jenkins, for instance, a City Commissioner candidate and leader of the Democratic 27th Ward, is commonly regarded as one of the city’s better ward leaders, despite a worst-in-the-city voter turnout total of just 19 percent in last year’s general election. Why? The 27th Ward includes Penn and part of Drexel. It’s lousy with college kids, and college kids don’t vote all that often, here or anywhere else.

That said, ward leaders exist in large part to drum up votes for the nominee of whatever party they belong to, so turnout is a useful metric. Looking at vacancies among committee members can tell you something about how well run a ward is as well. A lot of vacancies? Well maybe that ward leader is unable to recruit people to run for committee, or too disorganized to appoint replacements when vacancies crop up.

Enough preamble. Here are the rankings, all courtesy of PhillyWardLeaders.com (Note: the site only lists Democratic ward leaders for now, though it is collecting data on GOP ward bosses too).

Top 5 Turnout Ward Leaders

Bottom 5 Turnout Ward Leaders

The 5 Ward Leaders With Most Committee Person Vacancies (No best list, as a bunch of wards have zero or only one or two vacancies).