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AmesStat

Massachusetts Municipal Association - 2008 - Kenneth E. Pickard Municipal Innovation Award

Summary

Performance-based municipal management, pioneered in Baltimore and New York City in the 1990s and still primarily the domain of large and mid-size cities, has taken root in Amesbury, perhaps the smallest community ever to adopt such an approach. A key purpose of AmesStat is to create what Kezer terms “accountability without attitude” – meaning that decisions can be grounded in data rather than relying on murky assumptions or personal prejudices. A number of types of data are monitored through this system including staffing and personnel; budgets, revenue and spending; overtime and paid time-off; and projects and issues.

Description

Performance-based municipal management, pioneered in Baltimore and New York City in the 1990s and still primarily the domain of large and mid-size cities, has taken root in Amesbury, perhaps the smallest community ever to adopt such an approach.

Mayor Thatcher W. Kezer III announced his plans for “AmesStat” when he was inaugurated in January 2006. Over the next six months he worked with division heads to implement it, without the luxury of an enlarged staff or new technology. The hiring of the staff member who works most closely with AmesStat – Kendra Amaral, the mayor’s chief of staff – was made possible when Kezer expanded the responsibilities of an existing aide position.

A key purpose of AmesStat is to create what Kezer terms “accountability without attitude” – meaning that decisions can be grounded in data rather than relying on murky assumptions or personal prejudices.

“Part of your job as a CEO is to hold people accountable for what they’re responsible for,” Kezer says. “Doing it ‘without attitude’ means there’s nothing personal about it. You’re not doing it because you like, or dislike, the person. You’re doing it because you’re trying to reach specific objectives.”

Just as data analysis can lead to better decisions on how resources should be deployed, Kezer says, it also can put town officials in better position to advocate on their own behalf. In fiscal 2007, Amesbury’s Municipal Council made deep cuts in the police department’s budget. Data gathered through the AmesStat program, Kezer says, was used to demonstrate a link between the reduced spending and an increase in crime.

Amaral works with Kezer to monitor a number of types of data, divided into general categories such as staffing and personnel; budgets, revenue and spending; overtime and paid time-off; and projects and issues. The data are designed to alert managers of potential problem areas.

“If one of those indicators suggests we need to dive deeper to correct or advance a particular matter, we drill down into the details with more data,” Amaral says.

Kezer likens the process to a car’s dashboard warning system.

“If you’re driving in your car and your oil light comes on, it doesn’t tell you exactly what’s wrong. But it does tell you that you had better find out what’s wrong.”

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Tags: Accountability/Open Government/Transparency, Criminal Justice and Public Safety, Government and Politics, Government Performance and Management





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