In 2013, I ran for Philadelphia City Controller to bring complete transparency and accountablilty to Philadelphia government. To illustrate how government can show the public how every single dollar is spent, I created the Bulldog Budget, an innovative, open-source and internationally replicated tool to visualize and search for city expenditures with complete transparency.


"The coolest, most comprehensive City of Philadelphia budget visualization you've ever seen" 
- Technically Philly


The Mandel for Controller Bulldog Budget made quite a splash, giving the public, the media, and even government insiders a true accounting of government spending. Staffers in city agencies used the Bulldog Budget to illustrate gender-based salary discrimination, spouses in divorce proceedings showed city workers hiding overtime pay in alimony calculations, and advocates for so many causes could finally pinpoint sources of funding for key projects.  Some of the media coverage about the Bulldog Budget is reproduced below.


PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER EDITORIAL: Showing the city how to show us the money  (February 6, 2013Brett Mandel's second run for city controller has already produced something far more useful than the lawn signs and bumper stickers that are the chief legacy of most campaigns. Mandel recently unveiled his "Bulldog Budget," a spiffy online tool that presents detailed information about the $3.5 billion the city spent during the last fiscal year. Developed by Mandel and his friend Ben Garvey using city data acquired under the Right-to-Know Law, the application (budget.brettmandel.com) represents the budget in nested, color-coded rectangles sized according to their share of spending. Users can click on successive classes of expenditures to drill all the way down to the individual line items.

 THE PHILADELPHIA TRIBUNE - Controller campaign reveals budget tool (January 25, 2013Just in time for budget season, it's possible to track city spending down to the penny, through a new Web tool launched this week by Brett Mandel, as part of his campaign for city controller. "Unless we have the ability to see where every single dollar is spent, we end up having the kind of ridiculous debates we've had in recent years, where we take what we spent last year and we only tweak it at the margins," he said.

PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS - Mandel bulldogs himself (January 24, 2013Many political figures Google themselves to keep current on the electronic chatter about them. Now local politicians must "bulldog" themselves as well. They can thank Brett Mandel, a candidate in the May 21 Democratic primary election for city controller. Mandel this week unveiled his "Bulldog Budget" website, which allows users to scroll through the fine detail of the city's fiscal year 2012 spending.

THE PHILLY POST - 11 Weird Things the City Is Spending Its Money On (January 24, 2013A few days ago, City Controller candidate Brett Mandel released a very cool infographic/database documenting where every penny of city money was spent in Fiscal Year 2012. So I combed through and found some of the weirdest stuff your taxpayer dollars are funding.

PHILADELPHIA CITYPAPER - Pet therapy, plasma TVs and more finds from new budget database (January 23, 2013Brett Mandel, who's planning another run for City Controller, has been advocating for the office to be more active and transparent for years. Well, he deserves some credit for taking matters into his own hands, by putting online a database of city expenditures that he says accounts for the entirety of the budget from 2012. In addition to viewing individuals' salaries, you can also look at an accounting of expenses. Which tends to reveal fun facts, like that someone in the Public Health Department got an $800 office chair, or that the Prisons System bought a number of comfy-sounding seating options in the $560 range.

WHYY NEWSWORKS - Candidate publishes detailed data on Philadelphia government salaries, contracts (January 23, 2013Want to know how much taxpayers paid for Mayor Nutter's salary, the Welcome America Festival or City Council's furniture?  There's a website for that.  On Tuesday, City Controller candidate Brett Mandel launched budget.brettmandel.com, a site where Philadelphians can see how their tax dollars were spent last fiscal year.

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER - New website details city spending to the cent (January 22, 2013Brett Mandel, one of the candidates trying to unseat city controller Alan Butkovitz, is providing voters with their own opportunity to become city fiscal watchdogs. With help from a technically-savvy friend, Ben Garvey, Mandel has created a website where Philadelphia citizens, and anyone else who cares, can look up the city's expenditures in the fiscal year ended last June. The site is budget.brettmandel.com. It features blocks for each department in city government, sized according to how much of the $3.5 billion budget they control. By clicking on each block, users can drill down into different categories of spending, including outside contracts, equipment and supplies, and government salaries literally every expenditure by the city from July 2011 through June 2012, Mandel said, though the salaries appear as lump sums, not the biweekly checks issued by the city.

TECHNICALLY PHILLY - Use the coolest, most comprehensive City of Philadelphia budget visualization you've ever seen (January 22, 2013A new tool from City Controller candidate Brett Mandel lets Philadelphians see inside the 2012 city fiscal year budget. It's being unveiled this morning at coworking joint Independents Hall. Built by freelance data visualization hacker Ben Garvey, the "Bulldog Budget" visualization shows you exactly how the city spends its $3.5 billion budget, down to the last dollar (in spring 2011, Councilman Bill Green introduced legislation calling for a more available online budget tool). Click through each city department to find the breakdown of its own budget, as well as specific budget line items. Find the salary of every single city government worker (remember for salaries that they are for FY 2012 only, so new employees will be incomplete). See the impact of crime on the city budget.

PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS - Philly-controller candidate's site reveals in-depth info on city's budget (January 22, 2013City Controller candidate Brett Mandel on Tuesday launched budget.brettmandel.com, a site where users can see the nitty-gritty of taxpayer expenditures in 2012. It shows city employee salaries, elected officials' travel reimbursements, individual contract costs and other parts of the operating budget. The city regularly releases budget data on how much each department spends on general items, but it doesn't provide the type of detail found on Mandel's site. "Seeing where every single penny goes is really the Holy Grail of public information," said Mandel.