OPINION

Citistat

San Francisco - We've got a newish mayor here in SF, Gavin Newsom, who worried some of the town's liberal voting block when he beat a fellow county supervisor, Matt Gonzalez, to win the top spot. Gonzalez was a Green, way left; Newsom was perceived to be allied with the city's establishment, specifically the politically efficient machine built by former mayor Willie Brown (term-limited out) and a group always referred to in the press as "downtown developers." As far as I can tell, these are the people who want to build tall buildings. Anyway, Newsom found his way into the hearts of San Fran's liberals by supporting gay marriage.

I bring this up only because the next advance Newsom promises is an emulation of a Baltimore program called Citistat. It was the brainchild of a new mayor over there, Martin O'Malley, another young buck, and Jack Maple, who built a program to manage crime statistics in New York called, aptly enough, CrimeStat CompStat. The idea was to use performance metrics to force improvement in government. Baltimore built a special auditorium to haul city managers in front of analysts, talking about indicators like budget and responses to complaints. Supposedly the city has saved $100 million as a direct result. Crime is down (no mean feat in Baltimore). Potholes get fixed faster. And it's all thanks to digital photos and GIS, basically.

So, we're all good skeptics here, right? I mean, we all know that the whole reason we have government is that some kinds of performance can't be measured in terms of profit, budget, and schedule. And furthermore, one administration's measure of success is another administration's proof of failure, right?

Anyone know the real story behind Citistat? Or should a Bay Area transplant like me be psyched for my mayor's new approach?

A correction: the Baltimore program's called CompStat, not CrimeStat. My bad.

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