A nine-year-old Minneapolis program designed to boost government efficiency and transparency has not produced a public report in seven months, with none expected until much later this year.
The interruption in once-regular “Results Minneapolis” reports comes as the city’s new coordinator attempts to reinvent the program, a signature initiative of former Mayor R.T. Rybak.
City Coordinator Spencer Cronk said the retooling will put more focus on the city’s progress toward achieving overarching goals — such as eliminating racial disparities.
Results Minneapolis reports offer the public and city employees a glimpse into the statistics that collectively illustrate the speed, cost-effectiveness and performance of City Hall. Statistics from different departments, typically discussed at weekly public “conferences” featuring top city officials, have run the gamut from the number of taxi licenses and new vacant buildings to the cost per-contact of 311 services.
Cronk said he believes residents are more interested in how the city is performing on big goals, rather than getting more granular reports from each department — which, he assured, will still be produced.
“In my mind that is what people want to hear,” he said. “They would rather hear … what is the city doing in moving the needle on economic development and equity, than what is the communications department doing.”
Cronk said the program was put on hold to align it with new goals set by the City Council in 2014. The hiatus was necessary because the employee tasked with managing the reports needed to focus on the overhaul.
A presentation to department heads last week stressed the importance of new “community indicators” in future Results Minneapolis reports. These will use data from the census, city departments, state agencies and resident surveys to track the council’s broad goals, which range from “One Minneapolis” to “A City That Works.”
Data that doesn’t fit neatly under those goals will still be included in department reports, Cronk said. Those reports will be separate from the main Results reports and conferences but will be made available to the public.
Cronk said he’s still sorting out exactly what those reports will look like and how frequently they will be published. Eventually, he said he wants to create a more streamlined way to release data and information without having to wait for formal reports.
The goal, he said, is “something that citizens or reporters can access online, in real time. But it’s going to take a while for us to get there.”
Departments will still be required to compile information as a part of the annual city budget process, which is starting now for 2016.
Two council members asked about the change were unaware that the reports weren’t being produced. A presentation to the council is expected this August.
Rybak, who now works at education nonprofit Generation Next, said Results Minneapolis was “the most important meeting I went to every week.” He noted that his decision to ramp up paving investments was tied to data on the quality rating of city streets, for example.
He said they already produced cross-departmental reports for big-picture issues like racial disparities, youth and sustainability. “And it’s obviously up to a new administration to reinvent it however it’s most effective for them,” Rybak said.
The program’s original leader, former City Coordinator Steven Bosacker said public access to the information has been an important component of Results Minneapolis.
“Why not have more eyes examining this and be prepared to speak to the difficult questions that residents can and should bring about, ‘Is this an acceptable level?’ ” said Bosacker, now director of public sector innovation at Living Cities, an East Coast nonprofit, of their initial reasoning.
Bosacker added that Minneapolis’ goals should not be dismissed, as few cities engage in that level of planning. “There are many cities who really, their plan is the last campaign promises of the mayor,” Bosacker said. “If you’re describing a city in the terms of a few projects vs. these kind of rather aspirational goals, you’re shooting too small.”