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What's On Deck? CBC Radio Computer Columnist, Sue Braiden.

CitiStat: A Chance for Citizens to Tap Into Public Service from their Home Computer?

During the recent city election Mayor-Elect Eddie Francis promised to implement a program called "CitiStat". He said it was a key strategy in his commitment to delivering a more open and accountable public service. It was the topic of much debate in the weeks leading up to the election, and lingering confusion about exactly what this program does.

Why does Mr. Francis think applying an American-based model is going to work here in Windsor, and exactly what is it going to cost us when he does?

CitiStat-- what is it?
CitiStat is a "resource management and performance measurement" system created by Martin O'Malley when he became the Mayor of Baltimore in 2000. It's a simple way of reporting and tracking problems -- like potholes and illegal dumping -- and then getting the right people and resources out there to fix them. O'Malley wanted accurate and timely information about Baltimore's problems so that public servants could get the resources they had out there faster and more effectively to fix them. He also knew it was going to be important to commit to what he himself describes as "relentless follow-up". He wanted to shape and lead an accountable public service.


Why did O'Malley feel the need to create CitiStat?
Back in 1999 Baltimore was a city with a culture of failure. Their crime rate was high; roads and sewers were in disrepair; and public servant absenteeism was so high that the overtime budget required to get jobs done drove the city budget through the roof. There didn't seem to be a consistent or reliable way of tracking city resources, whether people, equipment or contracts. Each department and service had their own way of doing it, and there wasn't a lot of accountability. There were instances where citizens had water sitting in their basements for three years, and the city still hadn't gotten around to doing anything about it.

O'Malley decided to meet with department heads weekly. He asked them what metrics they used to describe their jobs -- for instance, how many potholes were reported each week, and how many got fixed. He then came up with a simple set of spreadsheets that allowed each department to track problems and service requests. This was then used to show maps of the city at their weekly meetings, with electronic pins showing where the problems were. It was a very simple system, and allowed them to immediately see where the problems were.


What did CitiStat change in Baltimore?
CitiStat unified departments and services and gave them a consistent set of measures and procedures for reporting and tracking problems and knowing what resources were available to apply, which in turn allowed them to follow up more quickly and effectively. But what really turned Baltimore around wasn't so much the computer tracking, as it was the recognition that meeting with the Mayor a couple of times a year didn't foster much commitment or accountability. Part of the CitiStat program was meeting weekly, which meant if things weren't getting fixed in your area, it got a lot harder to ignore. You knew you were coming back again in a week, and you were going to be held accountable. O'Malley said this "relentless followup" had the biggest impact.

But people began finding ways around this. They knew that if you simply went into the computer and marked a job as done, that the weekly maps and charts were going to look better. So they implemented a two part audit as part of CitiStat. The first part had them going out into the field to check to make sure that work reported as done actually was. The second part involved getting in touch with citizens to ask the same thing -- to ask if the city showed up on time, and got the job done right. That level of accountability to the taxpayers who funded city resources and services was the clincher.

Instead of taking weeks to fix potholes, or three years to get water out of basements, problems were being solved in under 48 hours.

In the first year, O'Malley tackled the problem of absenteeism. By simply getting employees to show up for work, they saved over 13 million dollars. It wiped out the overtime cost that had been plaguing them because the people who showed up still had to meet the demands, but had to do so during evenings and weekends, driving the costs through the roof.


Yes, but how did Baltimore really know that CitiStat worked?
Besides the fact that they now had a way to see what problems they had, and that there were being resolved quickly and effectively, there were some dramatic changes in the City of Baltimore almost immediately. Within the first year that CitiStat was implemented, violent crime went down 24%. Visits to hospital ERs due to drug overdoses went down 25%. Shooting deaths went down by 36%. These were profound changes in a city that had been plagued by crime for so many years.

But the biggest change to taxpayers was the fact that CitiStat had, within two years, saved the city almost 44 million dollars.

By being able to take a timely and accurate look at where problems were, and what resources they had to fix them, they were able to make constant adjustments to the ways things got done. It saved money; it increased service; and it absolutely turned Baltimore around.


So why does our Mayor-Elect think this can work in Windsor?
It's hard to argue with Baltimore's success. During the recent mayoral campaign there was some criticism that CitiStat was an American system, and that it couldn't work here because we're a cross border town. CitiStat is a way to track problems and resources. It's a commitment to meeting regularly to assess a city's needs, what they have to meet them with, and how well they're doing that. It doesn't matter if you're in Baltimore or Windsor, or what exactly the problems are, we have the same need to have a consistent way of describing problems and how we're tackling them. That's what CitiStat does. It's not just a computer program. It's a whole new approach to how we look at our problems and fix them.

I think the thing that's the most appealing to me as a taxpayer, is that CitiStat will let me call to report a problem, or even go to the city website to do that. I can then track the progress of that issue myself. I can watch online to see when resources are dispatched to fix it, what's being done about it. That real commitment on the city's part to allowing me to take some ownership in this, and showing me that they're serious about getting it done, is great.


How much is it going to cost?

During Windsor's recent mayoral election there was a lot of talk about how much it was going to cost to bring the CitiStat program to Windsor.

Baltimore is giving us CitiStat for free.

The software needed to run CitiStat is already on city computers. It's run by Microsoft Excel. During the now bi-weekly meetings the charts and maps it produces are displayed at the front of the room by two projectors, allowing people to see and discuss the results. The City of Windsor is already equipped with this projection system.

So we're getting the program at no cost; we've already got what we need to run it on; and Baltimore is offering to train our city employees to implement and apply it for free. Can't argue with the price tag.


Why CitiStat Makes Sense for Windsor ...
Critical Thinking to Help Shape Our Dialogue on Using CitiStat to Nurture Cost Savings and Greater Government Accountability

My Report to His Worship, Mayor Eddie Francis

At the request of the Mayor, I prepared recommendations on the possibile implementation of CitiStat within Windsor. A copy of the report is available online in MS Word format, and contains the following:

  • A Justification for CitiStat
  • What Quality of life do our citizens enjoy in the City of Windsor?
  • As the stewards of our city’s well-being, could we be doing better?
  • How Can CitiStat Help Windsor Tackle Crime, Poor Health, Big Budgets and Renewed Accountability?
  • Where do you look to start saving money?
  • Six Simple Rules for Launching CitiStat
  • Reference Materials

    The report was followed with a visit to the Chatham, Ontario to review their own implementation of CitiStat, called CK-Traax, as well as meeting with the author of Detroit, Michigan's implementation of the CitiStat program. These are the two geographically closest models available, and are both reporting measurable success in improving the tracking and delivery of services within their community, and public accountability.

    click here for the U.S. editions
    The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators
    The Creative City: A Toolkit for Urban Innovators
    (by Charles Landry)
    The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World
    The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World
    (by Sherry Ruth Anderson, Ph.D. Paul H. Ray)
    The Cultural Economy of Cities (Theory, Culture and Society)
    The Cultural Economy of Cities (Theory, Culture and Society)
    (by Allen J Scott)
    Cities Back from the Edge : New Life for Downtown
    Cities Back from the Edge : New Life for Downtown
    (by Roberta Brandes Gratz, Norman Mintz)
    Comeback Cities: A Blueprint for Urban Neighborhood Revival
    Comeback Cities: A Blueprint for Urban Neighborhood Revival
    (by Paul S. Grogan, Tony Proscio)
    Neighborhood Recovery: Reinvestment Policy for the New Hometown
    Neighborhood Recovery: Reinvestment Policy for the New Hometown
    (by John Kromer)
    Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community's Assets
    Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community's Assets
    (by John P. Kretzmann, John L. McKnight)
    Smart Growth Manual
    Smart Growth Manual
    (by Andres Duany, Jeff Speck, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk)
    The Urban Design Handbook: Techniques and Working Methods
    The Urban Design Handbook: Techniques and Working Methods
    (by Ray Gindroz (Editor), Karen Levine (Editor), Urban Design Associates)
    click here for more ideas

    You Recommended ...

    Have a favourite computer tool that you'd like to recommend? Perhaps you've come across a great piece of software that would be of interest to other listeners. Drop into the "You Recommended" listener forum and tell us about it ...

    His Worship, Mayor Eddie Francis, City of Windsor City of Windsor's Interactive "People Based Budget" ...

    Promising a more accessible and accountable approach to government, Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis decided to come to the people in "cyberspace".

    His interactive new "People Based Budget" can be found online at, inviting the citizens of Windsor to help council make some of the tough choices that they're facing in dealing with an operating budget shortfall of $17.3 million for 2004. In addition to a series of budget meetings with people in their wards, and a paper version of the survey, you can go online to tell the Mayor and your councillors just what you think the spending priorities should be this year, before they gather to prepare the 2004 budget this April. In addition to the "interactive budget", you can find more details about the ward meetings, and plenty of background material at the website above. TIP: to get a complete read on the survey, view the full PDF "Download Survey" the website links to first, before filling out your answers in the "Online Survey" version.


    So You Want to Be a Community Superhero?

    30 Essential Maps to Success & Sustainability

    If you've ever cared deeply about the community in which you live, you can't help but be moved to act on it's behalf, to love it, to search for new and innovative ways to breath life back into every nook and cranny and the creatures that fill it.

    If you're out to change the world, or at least your little piece of it, don't reinvent the wheel, when you can borrow best practices from other communities who have "been there, done that".

    If you've heard the call and are looking for a place to start, consider these 30 essential roadmaps to revitalising and sustaining your community ...

    Sign up to receive the Edible Computer in your email.

    What Did We Talk About During the Last Few Shows?

    Monday, November 3, 2003

    Turning Your Knowledge Into Cash: Are You the Next Online Professor?

    So you've been laid off, you're bored with your job, you've retired, or you're just plain ready for a change. Maybe it's time to cash in on that noggin' of yours! With online learning booming on the internet, and a host of virtual campuses looking to connect their tools with your know-how, a brand new career may be as close as your home PC.

    If you missed this show on Monday, November 3rd, you can still check out the website to learn more about how you can cash in on your "knowledge collateral". Want to know which electronic campuses are inviting you to teach? Which ones have the best tools? The best opportunities to earn a profit from your special brand of knowledge? From raising ferrets to raising the Titanic -- whatever your talent or skill, there's a market, and I'm going to help you find it.

    Want to know where you can find detailed information to help you protect yourself? Check out my shows on dealing with the latest round of viruses and tools to stop them in their tracks and clean up after them when they're gone. You can also help yourself to tips and tools by visiting our Virus Alerts, Tools and Tips and Hoax and Scam Alerts forums.

    Monday, October 20, 2003

    Flash Mobs ... Social menace or future champion of collective community action?

    From PDAs to cellphones with text messaging, as the latest round of gadgets hits critical mass in the consumer computing market, a fountain of innovative social applications seems to spontaneously erupt. The latest trend? "Flash mobs" -- gangs of pranksters whose collective action is fuelled by a variety of mobile computing gadgets.

    Are "Flash mobs" to mobile computing what Napster was to "peer-to-peer networks"? Social menace or future champion of collective community action? Tune in on Monday, October 20th to learn more about how this latest trend in consumer computing is taking hold in wired communities in the U.S., and is beginning to catch on globally.

    Suddenly feel the urge to join one of these secret societies on one of their next clandestine events, or simply learn more about what they've been up to? Here are the online hangouts of some of the more notorious "Flash Mobs" ...

    Rheingold and company's

    Rather just talk about it? Social menace or future champion of some collective community action? You be the judge over in the "Edible Computer listener forums". I'm inviting listeners to share their own ideas about the kind of future innovation that the "flash mobs" trend might lead to.

    Monday, October 6, 2003

    This is one fashion trend you definitely DID NOT see at the Emmy's last week: "wearable" computers ...

    While it might be a while before you see a Calvin Klein PC miniskirt go down the catwalk, high tech company Xybernaut is looking to put a backpack PC on your kids' shoulders, and a head-mounted colour display on you. Sounds a little far-fetched? Not according to companies like Bell Canada who thought outfitting 19 technicians with lightweight wearable computers and saving each an hour a day was a good bet.

    Whether you're a company looking to save time and money in the field, or a parent looking for ways to give little Johnny the competitive edge at school, tune in on Monday, October 6th to learn more about how this latest consumer computing trend might be your next best investment.

    Monday, September 22, 2003

    Throw away your business cards and burn a mittful of mini-CDs. It's a memorable yet cost-effective way to reach out and touch someone ...

    Why hand them a business card when you can hand them a business card CD? Maybe you're looking to gain an edge with a potential employer by tucking a portable, a multimedia resumé in their hand, complete with an audio video greeting and dynamic examples of your work? Or perhaps you're a small business person looking for a cost-effective way to leave a big impression with the folks you have the chance to network with at a meeting? Hand them your best PowerPoint presentation on a mini CD instead of your business card, and they're sure to remember you. Maybe you're an independent music artist or filmmaker looking for a novel way to reach out and touch someone with demo songs or a trailer of your new production? Hit the Toronto Film Festival armed with a mittful of your best stuff on a business card CD.

    Tune in on Monday, September 22nd to learn more about this affordable, portable media, and to find out where you can get top-notch presentation software and CD burning utilities for free.

    Sign up to receive the Edible Computer in your email.



    A Note from Sue ...

    Click here to visit Sue Braiden's personal website Some Thoughts of Your Own To Share?

    gentle listener :)

    I'm always grateful for your feedback. I want your experience as a listener, and as a visitor to the website, to make your journey as a computer consumer easier and more valuable.

    As always, if you have some thoughts on what you'd like to see covered in future shows, I invite you to visit the Listeners' Picks forum to tell me about it. I'm always looking for stories to share about great new consumer computing products and services.

    Have a terrific Monday morning, and let's keep talking!



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