Government & Politics

Initiative from Michael Bloomberg seeks to make Kansas City government more effective

Billionaire and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg will help Kansas City use data to make its government more effective.
Billionaire and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg will help Kansas City use data to make its government more effective. The Associated Press

Kansas City officials have come to rely increasingly on data analysis and citizen surveys to guide their decision-making. Those stats help make better use of scarce resources, officials say.

Now that strategy is getting some outside support from billionaire and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. Kansas City is among eight cities chosen this week as the initial beneficiaries of the $42 million What Works Cities initiative that Bloomberg Philanthropies announced in April.

The others are New Orleans; Seattle; Tulsa, Okla.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Jackson, Miss.; Louisville, Ky.; and Mesa, Ariz.

Cities with populations between 100,000 and 1 million were eligible for the program, which aims to help cities use data to make local government more effective. More than 100 municipalities applied, some of which will be added later.

Kansas City will receive technical assistance for three years from experts at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University and three other lesser-known organizations: the Sunlight Foundation, Results for America and the Behavioral Insights Team. No dollar amount was assigned to the benefits each city will receive.

One reason for Kansas City’s selection is that it’s already wedded to number-crunching as a basis for deciding how to allocate tax dollars, said Beth Blauer, executive director of the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins.

“We’re going to use them as an example of other cities to learn from,” Blauer said.

But Kansas City will also get help improving output from its KCStat data analysis system and other measurements that help improve tasks as varied as demolishing dangerous buildings and rebuilding sidewalks.

“KCStat, our Digital Road Map and other initiatives have laid a firm foundation, and this selection will keep us ahead as a technologically advanced community,” Mayor Sly James said in a prepared statement.

Information on the national initiative is at whatworkscities.bloomberg.org.

To reach Mike Hendricks, call 816-234-4738 or send email to mhendricks@kcstar.com.

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