Saturday, 2:15 PM
Boston puts city performance stats online
By Donovan Slack, Globe Staff
The city of Boston is publishing statistics on the Internet for the first time today, showing how various city departments are performing, including schools, police, and fire.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino
The public now can look up daily student attendance and MCAS math and reading scores at city schools, as well as the number of violent crimes or the amount of money spent on overtime. The statistics are compared with quarterly goals for each city agency, which have been given performance grades. For example, city community centers recorded 732,388 visits last summer, about 130,000 short of their goal, and received a grade of needs improvement.
The city performance report cards, posted at cityofboston.gov/bar, are part of a larger management initiative unveiled by Mayor Thomas M. Menino nearly two years ago and designed to create more accountability in city government. Since the program was created, department heads have been called to task for poor performance and their pay raises have been based on the measures, city officials said.
Lisa Signori, the mayor's Cabinet chief for administration and finance, said the measures will be published quarterly from now on in an effort to make city government more transparent and accountable.
"Hopefully we're giving a view for the taxpayers and others that use this of where we're making investments and what the results are," Signori said.
One government watchdog praised the initiative overall but said some of the measures need refining.
"It's certainly more transparent than anything they've done in the past," said Jeffrey W. Conley, executive director of the Boston Finance Commission, an independent city agency charged with rooting out mismanagement in city government.
But he pointed to measures such as "fires responded to" as moot.
"If there's a fire, they respond to it," he said. "They respond to all of them."
Signori said she welcomes such input on improving the system and said the city is continually refining its measures. She said the measurement of fire response was intended to show how many fires happen in the city and how that has changed over time.
Signori said no single measure reflects how government is performing overall but gives a snapshot that may point to larger issues that need to be addressed.
"I think it will promote stronger management and hopefully drive some good discussion," she said.
Donovan Slack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.