Mayor Sly James targets efficiency

KANSAS CITY, Missour - During CitiStat meetings inside Baltimore city hall, department managers have to be ready to a respond to anything.

They're held accountable on a weekly basis, in an open meeting, for the performance of their department.

Are they filling potholes or plowing snow fast enough?

"Just like it will help the mayor in Kansas City, have a good sense of... how are they doing? How are we doing in terms of performance... how are we doing this week, compared to last week," said Baltimore Deputy Mayor Christopher Thomaskutty.

Ten years ago Baltimore's mayor developed the CitiStat program.

Kansas City's new mayor, Sly James, made a significant campaign promise to bring the same system here to save money and improve services.

"... and whether or not they're being done as efficiently as possible and therefore as cheaply as possible.... are the things that I'm looking for out of CitiStat," said James.

James knows it will make people at City Hall worry about how their performance is being judged.

"There's always going to be that discomfort when you're trying to do things differently," said James.

Troy Schulte is expected to become the permanent city manager soon, and James says Schulte is on-board with moving to the new program.

And on how it holds people accountable, James says, "This is not something, to tell you that you're doing a rotten job and your job is on the line. This is something to show you how to do your job better."

"It's not easy. There will be bumps in the road," said Thomaskutty.

Kansas City already has a 311 Action Center that takes calls from the public asking for city services.

The operations manger, Jean Ann Lawson, visited Baltimore several years ago to see how CitiStat works.

She says Kansas City's system already makes lots of data available to department heads.

But if KCMO starts CitiStat, top managers will have to become even more data-intense.. and so will the 311 center.

"I think what we have to do is we have to implement data from other sources as well," said Lawson.

She says it works by tracking data from all departments together, rather than separately.

"We could finally get everyone on the same page. Because while we use our 311 information, and we have our system that we track, to implement that across the city would definitely be an advantage," said Lawson.

CitiStat also looks at human resources data like absenteeism, overtime, and vacation time.

It's then compared to work projects out in the field so managers can see the weak spots and money-wasters.

Managers then have to control costs better, rather than just approving more budget-busting overtime.

New phones are being installed in the action to start a new more automated, voice response system.

It was already planned before James became mayor.

But the upgrade should help start CitiStat here, since CitiStat relies so much on the statistics provided by the action center.

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