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Crunching the Numbers on City Council

This morning the Philadelphia Research Initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts released a report comparing Philadelphia City Council to councils in 14 other major cities. The researchers at Pew examined everything from salaries to tenure to “representativeness” to perks. Here’s a brief look at how Philadelphia fared on several key measures.

Who gets paid the most?
L.A. council members top the list with an average salary of $178,789. Philadelphia council members rank 4th with an average salary of $121,107.

Who has been in office the longest?
Philadelphia council members do a great job of holding onto their seats — the average tenure is 15.5 years. Council President Anna Verna recently announced that she will retire after nearly 35 years in office.

Philadelphia City Council members have the longest average tenure of all 15 city councils in the Pew study. This image comes from the interactive graphic that accompanies the report.

Which city does the best job of representing populations that have been underrepresented historically?
Philadelphia, Washington, and Baltimore (African-Americans), San Antonio (Hispanics), Dallas (women)

Who enjoys the nicest perks?
Philadelphia council members get 12 weeks off in the summer.

Where are the least compact city council districts?
New York-4, Houston-E, Philadelphia-7 & Philadelphia-5 top the list. A low quantitative compactness score can serve as a useful indicator that a particular district shape is irregular. This may point to gerrymandering in a particular district or city.

The Pew authors used Azavea’s Redistricting the Nation website and redistricting white papers to explore different measures of compactness and compactness scores for individual council districts within cities. The report also includes some information about the redistricting process for several cities, including a brief exploration of a proposal to create more transparency and public participation in Philadelphia’s redistricting process.