Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Charles Franklin attends a City Council meeting in 2018. (Photo: Ceilidh Yurenka)

A website dedicated to data visualization, commentary and meeting recaps for Cambridge politics, The Cambridge Review, launched last week, said Charles Franklin, a Cambridge software engineer.

“I’ve created a new website for engaging with Cambridge politics,” Franklin said in an email March 18. “Starting from this year, it has and will have posts for City Council meetings summarizing agenda items and recording votes.” The archive shows votes for every policy order, application and petition back through 2018, and public comments are organized by the name of the commenter, he said.

“The integrated data dashboard makes clicking through records trivial,” said Franklin, using the term as any MIT grad would: to mean “easy.”

After becoming a frequent attendee and public commenter at municipal meetings starting in 2018, Franklin ran for City Council in 2019 on a progressive platform.

Five years later, he is ready to make a mark on the local political landscape as an observer.

His initial idea to have a website tracking just election data, but Dan Totten – a friend and former legislative aide who made his own run for council in November – “wanted to expand it into a general Cambridge politics website,” Franklin said.

“All the data on council votes, meetings and elections exists somewhere, and I know how to get it, but that’s not true for everyone … While [municipal] websites are comprehensive, there’s a steep learning curve to get proficient at navigating it,” Franklin wrote in a response to an emailed list of questions. “I’ve learned pretty well how to navigate the city’s resources for tracking council activity and election results.”

It’s intended as a gateway for voters and residents looking for an accessible look into Cambridge politics, taking its place alongside citizen-ran resources such as the Cambridge Civic Journal maintained by Robert Winters – who also ran for council in November.

“When I was running for City Council in 2019, an MIT student asked me at a forum how she and other students could engage more in city politics. I told her I didn’t know, because being a student is time consuming, and so is keeping up with the city.” Franklin said. “There was a distinct look of disappointment on her face that I still remember to this day. I hope this website makes it easier for people with busy lives like that student to stay politically engaged.”