Chattanooga data efforts get boost from Bloomberg

Authored By david.morton

Chattanooga is among the first eight cities selected for a nationwide initiative to improve government performance and transparency through civic data.

Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities is providing support and training for midsize cities. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s foundation is spending $42 million over three years to connect cities with experts in data analysis, administration and transparency.

More than 100 cities applied for the first round. Others announced Wednesday include Jackson, Mississippi; Kansas City, Missouri; Louisville, Kentucky; Mesa, Arizona; New Orleans, Louisiana; Seattle, Washington; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Selected cities represent a range of local leaders committed to using data to improve people’s everyday lives, Bloomberg said in a statement.

“Making better use of data is one of the best opportunities cities have to solve problems and deliver better results for their citizens,” he said.

Under the initiative, Chattanooga plans to hone its decision-making and improve access to the data it generates. Mayor Andy Berke said the support builds on steps already taken locally.

“One of the reasons we got this recognition is because we’ve worked hard to make sure we’re at the forefront of transparency and performance among cities,” he said.

City Hall has already released an open data policy, maintains a performance website and has worked with The Public Library to create a Web portal where it publishes datasets on crime, finance and tax incentives.

But the majority of the city’s data is locked behind proprietary software. Berke said one of the goals is to automate the flow of information from administrative computer systems to the city’s public interfaces. Partner organizations can help solve the internal infrastructure problems the city faces, he said.

Additionally, the city’s data-driven decision-making platform, Chattadata, will benefit from the outside support funded by Bloomberg, he said.

Partner organizations include Results for America, the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University, the Government Performance Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School, Sunlight Foundation and The Behavioral Insights Team.

From blighted properties to transportation, cities generate lots of data. Many are eager to make decisions from it but lack the capacity, expertise or tools to use it.

What Works Cities provides municipal governments free access to world-class experts who can meet them where they are and address their own unique needs, said Sharman Stein, director of communications.

“It’s all about helping cities improve life for their citizens, helping them know what’s effective, helping them know what works,” she said.