MBJ: Memphis joins $42M Bloomberg data initiative
The City of Memphis plans to take a data-driven approach to tackle issues such as homelessness, public safety and economic development.
Wednesday, July 12, the City of Memphis officially joined What Works Cities, a $42 million initiative from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable arm of former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. The initiative is being touted as the nation’s most comprehensive philanthropic effort to help mayors and local leaders use data and evidence to engage the public, to make government more effective and, ultimately, to improve lives.
“The mandate from the Mayor is to make sure we’re the most transparent administration in city history,” said Kyle Veazey, City of Memphis deputy director of communications. “This work will be to craft a policy that reflects that.”
Memphis will work with the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates for open government, to develop data policies — based on community feedback — with the goal of making the city’s information more usable and accessible to the public.
Over the past 18 months, the city analyzed data to reduce 911 response times for emergency calls. When Strickland took office in Janaury of 2016, it took an average of 60 seconds for a dispatcher to pick up a 911 call.
The city assessed peak call times and adjusted staffing to bring its response time down to 11 seconds.
“Properly analyzing data was a huge reason why we have made huge strides,” Veazey said.
The national standard is answering 95 percent of 911 calls within 20 or fewer seconds. The city is currently in the 80th percentile.
The city is expected to start working with the Sunlight Foundation and Results for America, the agency Bloomberg selected to lead and coordinate the What Works Cities initiative, in the coming weeks.
Public engagement will be included in the discovery process to determine what kind of data the public wants access to and the best delivery method — whether that’s a public-facing online dashboard or downloadable Excel spreadsheets, Veazey said.
“We want to create an up-to-date, completely transparent way to share as much data as we can about what we do in city government and the city in general,” Veazey said. “We want our policy to be not just good but a best practice for cities across the country.”