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July 28, 2004

Can Topic Maps Help Share/Duplicate the Success of Programs Like CitiStat for Accountability & Transparency in Municipal Governance?

I've received emails and calls from a number of you who were interested in continuing the thinking I started regarding Topic Maps as a way of making knowledge and resources more accessible to cities attempting to cultivate greater transparency and accountability in municipal governance.

I had a great conversation with Tom Mandel the other day about the potential for this. Today there exists perhaps a bigger opportunity for this because of the national nod that the CitiStat program itself just got, encouraging it's creators to find simple ways to share and replicate the success in Baltimore. (news story below ...)

As I've mentioned in discussion with other colleagues, Windsor (where I live and am tasked with assisting in this exploration) is only one of the cities struggling to get their arms around this challenge. There are hundreds of other cities that are feeling their way through on this, and a lot of wasted dollars. In the U.S., the Department of Justice funded large portions of many municipal programs. In Canada, there are various levels of municipal, provincial and federal funding poured into creating similar programs/systems/processes, many of them in a vacuum.

For those of you who are interested in continuing to explore this, particularly in the context of creating a team that might be able to work with the folks in Baltimore to a) topic map it, and b) find simple ways of sharing knowledge and resources broadly with other community stakeholders, I invite you to come and help me talk to myself through this blog.

Still scratching my head on this. I'm accustomed to "threaded dialogue boards" for this kind of thing, but I'm willing to give this a try. To the extent that it works, I'll continue trying to share some of my own thinking on the need that exists, and invite you to explore with me some of the ways that we might be able to cultivate an easier and more fruitful path for other communities.

(I can't help but think that tapping into John Abele's resources at the Kingbridge Centre and getting a few community champions' noggins together -- Baltimore team, mayors of various cities, topic map and knowledge product gurus -- to do some brainstorming around this thing would produce an interesting cascade of community uplift ;^)

(news story below)


Baltimore CitiStat Program Wins Government 'Oscar';
Program Ensures Wise Use of City Resources, Monitors Accountability at All Levels of Government;

Wed Jul 28,12:13 PM ET

To: Metro Desk
Contact: Sarah Howe of the Council for Excellence in Government, 202-530-3270 or showe@excelgov.org

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., July 28 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The City of Baltimore's CitiStat program - a groundbreaking initiative that ensures wise use of city resources by holding managers and workers accountable -- has won the "Oscar" of government awards from the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University and the Council for Excellence in Government. CitiStat is one of five winners of the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award and will receive a $100,000 grant to support replication of its significant and creative efforts.

Begun in 2000, CitiStat regularly reviews every aspect of Baltimore City's government - ranging from employees' use of overtime and sick leave, to trash collection and snow removal -- ensuring that the city is meeting the needs of its citizens. Bimonthly meetings between agencies, the mayor, the first deputy mayor and members of his cabinet serve as a key component of CitiStat. Before the meetings, agencies are required to submit performance reports, which are compared to data from the city's 311 Call center, an independent body that manages service requests from citizens.

By creating a structure within which city leaders can regularly assess performance and quickly make improvements, CitiStat has significantly improved the city government's responsiveness. The participation of cabinet officials ensures intergovernmental communication and cooperation is maintained, and keeps the administration on track to meet its goals.

The program has reduced overtime, saving almost $24 million -- an important feat as state and local governments across the nation work to close the largest cumulative budget gaps since World War II. Within certain agencies, the program has also reduced absenteeism by half. Through the city's 48-hour pothole abatement guarantee, pothole complaints have decreased considerably. Towing of abandoned vehicles has increased 22 percent and the city has removed four times as much graffiti as it did two years ago. To round out its successes, integrating data from the city's call center into CitiStat ensured the resolution of 1,200,000 citizen service requests derived from one and a half million contacts -- without the loss of a single call.

"CitiStat is a management tool for public officials that translates into real, tangible results for citizens. Government leaders across the country and around the world are taking notice of its success-and for good reason," said Stephen Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis, former Innovations Award winner and currently faculty chair of the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard's Kennedy School. "Representatives from more than 100 local, state, federal and international government entities have visited Baltimore to find out how the CitiStat model could work for them."

Citizens can also log onto the CitiStat website to read reports and updates on Baltimore city government's progress and key initiatives.

"By providing agency heads with real-time performance data, CitiStat allows government leaders the opportunity to make wise decisions when it comes to resources. And that allows them to make changes not year-to-year or month-to-month, but week-to-week." said Patricia McGinnis, President and CEO of the Council for Excellence in Government. "That benefits the customers and owners of government...the people of Baltimore."

CitiStat was selected from among nearly 1,000 applicants for the award, which was presented today in Washington, DC. For 17 years, the Innovations in American Government Award has recognized quality and responsiveness at all levels of government, honored government efforts that are creative, effective and address significant problems, and has fostered the replication of innovative approaches to the challenges facing government.

About the Innovations Award:

The Innovations in American Government Awards is a program of the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. The award is administered in partnership with the Council for Excellence in Government.

The Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation fosters excellence in government around the world in order to generate and strengthen democracy. Through its awards program, research, publications, curriculum support, and global network, the Institute champions critical milestones in creative and effective governance and democratic practice.

The Council for Excellence in Government is a national, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to improve government performance by strengthening results-oriented management and creative leadership in the public sector, and to build understanding by focusing public discussion on government's role and responsibilities.

On the Web:
CitStat ( http://www.ci.baltimore.md.us/news/citistat/ )

The Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation ( http://www.ashinstitute.harvard.edu )
The Council for Excellence in Government ( http://www.excelgov.org )



July 28, 2004 in Current Affairs, Web/Tech | Permalink


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