Tina Rosenberg has an interesting post about Baltimore’s CitiStat, a system that extends the NYPD CompStat concept to the rest of city government. The basic idea is to set benchmarks for agencies, measure their performance, and hold agency leadership accountable for hitting their marks. When Baltimore initiated CitiStat in 1999 its agencies were not measuring much in the way of performance, so the city relied on the data it did have, personnel records and budgets.
But those proved useful. Once analyzed, they showed a widespread pattern of abuse of overtime, rampant absenteeism and use of city cars for private purposes — city officials drove them home every night.
So initial goals focused on reducing employee misconduct and generating data on other mayoral priorities, chief among them doing a better job of tracking and following up on resident complaints.
By 2003, Baltimore had reduced overtime by 30 percent, and absenteeism was cut by half in the agencies where it had been attacked. City services had been greatly improved — snow was removed and trash picked up, potholes filled, lead abatements performed.
What’s both intriguing and encouraging here is the prospect for low-hanging fruit: serious efficiency gains in city government from the introduction of rudimentary management techniques. Set goals, give division leaders the leeway to pursue the goals (and experiment in their pursuit), measure performance, and hold people accountable.