Renowned data and transparency experts will soon help Raleigh measure the efficiencies of its government programs for free.
Bloomberg Philanthropies will work to improve Raleigh’s use of data through its “What Works Cities” program, according Raleigh’s public affairs department. Bloomberg launched the initiative last year to help mid-sized American cities use data and public feedback to govern more effectively.
Specifically, Bloomberg’s group of consultants will help Raleigh examine practices in its stormwater management department. During the process, which run until June, the city will publish updates and outcomes on its website.
Mayor Nancy McFarlane said she’s excited about evaluating how well the city manages its air quality, water quality and its runoff. Caring for the environment and protecting the city’s natural resources becomes more important the more Raleigh grows, she said.
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“We have a lot of older shopping centers, for example, that don’t have to abide by newer (runoff) regulations,” McFarlane said.
“The Bloomberg project will be incredibly helpful in saying, ‘Here’s what you’ve done, here’s how it works and here’s what you need to do to reach your goals,’ ” she said. “The goal is to gather data and use it to make better decisions moving forward.”
The city hopes to adopt Bloomberg’s review processes to evaluate other areas of government. Introducing the consultants’ tried-and-true efficiency measurement methods and sharing the results publicly could bring a culture change to City Hall, said Monica Chaparro, strategic planning and performance manager in Raleigh’s budget office.
“Sometimes if you’re not doing well, you don’t want to talk about it. That’s not the mindset we’re going to have anymore,” Chaparro said. “This will help us see: Are we doing projects that really make a difference?”
Bloomberg has already launched programs in Denver, San Francisco, Seattle, Las Vegas and about 20 others and plans to include a total of 100 cities through 2017.
The $42 million initiative connects city employees to experts at the Behavioral Insights Team, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Government Performance Lab, the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, Results for America and the Sunlight Foundation.
Bloomberg selected Raleigh for the program because the city has shown it wants to find new ways to release public information, said Sharman Stein, a What Works Cities representative. The city’s open data website, data.raleighnc.gov, features more than 300 datasets, 900 graphics and is used by 1,200 people each month, according to city staff.
Bloomberg’s announcement comes one month after the Knight Foundation donated $35,000 to Raleigh so the city could improve its open data website.