Background Of A New School Of Government At Harvard University
Once seen as a dysfunctional community nicknamed “Slumerville,” Somerville, Massachusetts was able to change the trajectory of the city through the use of timely data to inform decisions and implement new programs. Although a previous mayor explored the initiative, Joe Curtatone, whom voters elected to the office in 2004, initiated the project by recruiting graduate students from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Not only did this program establish quantitative reviews of city programs and services, it also created a one-stop helpline for citizens to report problems and get information. The system also allowed citizens to follow up on their requests via the city’s internet site.
While Curtatone was the champion of the initiative, several members of the Board of Aldermen had long been frustrated with the lack of information guiding their budgetary decisions. The in ability to measure departments’ productivity kept aldermen from asking specific questions and encouraged departments to spend the rest of their budgets to avoid a surplus. As soon as the SomerStat program was introduced, the city identified several areas of “low hanging fruit” such as Waste Management not paying rent on a city owned transfer station (Waste Management later negotiated to use the station for $240 million per year). This return is reflective of how quantitative-based evaluation can be a valuable tool.
Key Decision Maker
The key decision maker in this case is the mayor…