The Joys of Somerville: Massachusetts Mayor Lauded for Government Reform


If you’ve been following our blog over the past year, you’ll realize we haven’t been too kind to Massachusetts. For evidence of our Commonwealth-bashing, see here and here — and for good measure, you better take a look at this as well. (Sorry, perhaps it’s just our Belichick aversion coming through.) But alas, the day has come to offer praise to the Old Bay State as we feature a column from former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith in Governing, in which he touts the reforms of Somerville, Mass. Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone:

Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone has enacted transformative changes in the management of Somerville, Massachusetts, and has done so by championing the importance of cost and efficiency data for all city services to improve accountability and performance. These efforts led to the creation of the SomerStat program. His approach to reform serves as a particularly timely primer on how to establish new norms for tracking and improving service delivery, giving officials the tools to know where to cut costs, where to keep investing and where there are opportunities for innovation…

SomerStat has now taken Baltimore’s CitiStat program one step further by integrating real-time data into its arsenal. According to Hirsch, this has allowed the city "to intensify its reliance on data for decision making." The mayor’s office requires that all city data be centrally accessible by the SomerStat office. This means that data from more than 50 sources are reported to the SomerStat office, from enterprise-wide and stand-alone systems. In fact, Curtatone subsequently created a major new source of performance data by implementing a centralized 311 constituent center (the first such center in New England) that tracks and issues work orders for every resident request for city services.

The first success to come from SomerStat’s analysis of this data was when it revealed a persistent problem of excessive overtime in the police department. The biggest culprit was that overtime costs were incurred whenever an officer was needed to cover someone who was out sick. Police leadership immediately started working with the mayor’s office and the union to create a solution. By increasing the number of officers assigned to each shift, the police and the mayor were not only able to rein in overtime costs, but were able to improve their community policing efforts by maintaining higher staff levels for each shift. "We’ve reaped one of the first rewards of the SomerStat process," Curtatone said. "This is part of our overall effort to modernize city government, cut waste and improve services."

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