A large part of what is said at a City Council meeting is "ceremony" – a spiritual invocation, approval of minutes, taking of the role, recognitions of service, reading of proclamations, etc.
During this past week, text processing routines were written to categorize and label the parts of the meeting. The most important information we want to highlight is: (1) new legislation that is proposed and (2) discussion about new legislation.
Instead of data on existing laws, this project is most concerned with proposals that are not yet law and which citizens can then still influence.
Some text processing has been made simpler because Philadelphia Council members tend to use the same terms over and over. For example, when proposing legislation, one will usually say something like:
“I offer one privileged resolution …” “I introduce one bill on your behalf …” etc. Also, once something is proposed, it is then customary for the Chief Clerk to read a synopsis of the proposal. Categorizing public comments will be a bit more difficult.
Often lacking from the City Council meeting, in a city the size of Philly, is debate between the council persons themselves. Most of the proposed laws are immediately “referred to committee”. However, the public can comment on any proposed laws and the officials can respond.