Editorial, 11/7: Caught in the act at City Hall

Editorial, 11/7: Caught in the act at City Hall

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Management guru Ken Blanchard and others advise, “catch someone doing something right” to encourage positive feedback in the workplace.

If the concept works in the private sector, presumably the same principle applies in the public sector.

So the Journal Star editorial board wants to be among those offering a word of praise to City Council member Leirion Gaylor Baird.

It was Gaylor Baird who first put Lincoln on the list of more than 100 cities who sought help from Bloomberg Philanthropies on how to more effectively make use of the mounds of data that have become accessible as city government gradually switched to digital records.

As reported by the Journal Star’s Nancy Hicks, Gaylor Baird returned from a conference for young leaders full of enthusiasm about the concept of “open data.” Searching online, she found the “What Works Cities” program just begun by Bloomberg. Yikes! The deadline for a statement of interest was that very day at midnight.

“I just went ahead and did it. I thought, 'How could this be a bad thing?'” Gaylor Baird said.

Lincoln didn’t make the cut for in the first year of funding in the “What Works Cities” program. But staffers at Bloomberg Philanthropies sent an encouraging email. At that point Gaylor Baird got the mayor’s office on board with the request. Lincoln was in the second round of 16 cities chosen for the program.

That means that Lincoln is in line to receive help worth several hundred thousand dollars from experts in various fields -- the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University; the Government Performance Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School; Results for America; and the Sunlight Foundation, etc. -- who will be paid by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Success stories are already rolling in from the first round of funding. For example, Jackson, Mississippi, officials found ways to improve and speed clean-up of rundown properties. Louisville, Kentucky, improved its on-time restaurant inspection program by about 11 percent.

The City Council was already hoping to accelerate the community’s use of digital information by committing the city to an Open Data Initiative in a resolution sponsored by Gaylor Baird and City Council colleague Trent Fellers. The idea, Fellers said, is that making the data available that might fire the imagination of entrepreneurs.

The new efforts to make better use of data optimize the possibilities of finding other people doing something right in city government. That would be positively welcome.

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