PlanPhilly investigative reporter Patrick Kerkstra took home top honors in the “Geek Headline of the Year" journalism category of the Philadelphia Geek Awards Friday Night at the Academy of Natural Sciences. The Headliner Award “honors awesome achievement in covering stories in the local geek scene.”
Kerkstra bested Derrick Pitts, the Franklin Institute’s Chief Astronomer and host of WHYYs’ Skytalk, as well as Faye Flam, who writes the Inquirer’s Planet of the Apes column and blog about evolution.
"I left with a 13-inch tall glowing robot trophy and a high-five from Derrick Pitts. Pretty great evening." Kerkstra said. " And as someone who observes Philadelphia for a living, it was inspiring to see how large this city's tech community has become."
Kerkstra’s years-long in the making and ongoing data-driven analysis of Philadelphia’s epic property tax delinquency problems led to proposed legislation in City Council to begin correcting the city’s dysfunctional tax collection and foreclosure systems.
With funding from the William Penn Foudation, Kerkstra continues his reporting in a joint PlanPhilly/Philadelphia Inquirer investigation. Look for the next installments in September.
What Kerkstra uncovered so far:
• 18 percent of Philadelphia properties are in arrears, by far the most of any big city in America.
• The total amount of delinquent taxes stands at just over $515.4 million, an increase of nearly $44 million (9.3 percent) in the last year.
• Since 2009, the total amount owed to the city and the school district grew by more than $90 million (21.3 percent).
Kerkstra’s most recent article is available here. An interactive map of the city’s tax-delinquent properties is here. Coverage of earlier installments of the series can be found here.
Throughout 2010, Kerkstra partnered with Fels Institute academic John Kromer to complete an interactive, multi-media project chronicling blight in Philadelphia and development made by the Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha community development corporation in Eastern North Philadelphia. This project was called “Desolate to Dynamic” and the stories covered the experiences of the area’s residents, the politics and racial dynamics of urban recovery, the design and architecture of low-income developments, and the massive investment of taxpayer funds that enabled the neighborhood’s transformation. The writing, video and photography that comprised this series was made possible by a grant from the William Penn Foundation.