City's use of statistics to govern goes global

CitiStat: The approach, which the mayor's brother helped implement in the city and is now promoting with his company, is being considered for an innovation prize.

May 13, 2004|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

In an obscure Eastern European city, gravediggers are keeping closer count of the bodies they bury thanks, in part, to CitiStat, the statistical style of governing popularized by Baltimore.

From Syracuse, N.Y., to Indjija in Serbia, cities across the nation and world are replicating the statistics-driven approach that Mayor Martin O'Malley pitched yesterday to Harvard University judges considering it for a $100,000 innovation prize.

O'Malley told the panel of experts - including former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend - that CitiStat has been moving Baltimore "from an old spoils-based system of patronage politics" to results-based performance politics.

The message has clearly resonated nationally. But what the mayor did not say - and what few people know - is that the mayor's family ties have played a role in CitiStat's replication and that his younger brother, Peter O'Malley, has shared in the spoils of CitiStat's success.

The mayor launched CitiStat four years ago. He modeled it after the New York Police Department's Compstat system, which pioneered the process of consistently gathering and mapping crime data, and quickly deploying officers and resources to address the worst locations.

O'Malley wanted to apply the same principle to complaints registered about other services such as potholes, illegal dumping and clogged storm drains to help improve services and keep a tighter rein on spending.

Mayor hired brother

To launch CitiStat, the mayor hired his brother and campaign manager, Peter O'Malley, in June 2000 to work with first deputy mayor Michael Enright and CompStat's creator, the late Jack Maple.

"The mayor wanted to make sure CitiStat got up and running, and he knew Peter would get it done right," said Stephen Kearney, O'Malley's spokesman.

The mayor did not place Peter O'Malley on the city payroll. Instead, the mayor's office requested and received an Abell Foundation grant that paid his brother $77,000 over two years.

Peter O'Malley, Enright and Maple picked Matthew Gallagher to run the CitiStat department because Gallagher had reviewed all of the city's operations for two business groups.

The national attention heaped on CitiStat has focused mainly on the program linking the 311 citizen complaint system and mapping technology to CitiStat's off-the-shelf data software.

The approach allows Baltimore to dig through citywide statistics to examine street-level performance, such as trash collection and pothole repair.

Peter O'Malley also located and designed the CitiStat conference room where twice a month agency directors stand before administration officials and answer pointed questions about their departments as their data are projected above them on two giant television screens.

Reams of statistics are entered into computers and examined daily - rather than annually - in nearly all departments to spot wasteful spending and inefficient practices throughout the city's $2 billion operation.

Peter O'Malley left in June 2002 to manage the campaign of Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., the mayor's father-in-law. He also started a company, GovStat, a month later.

He says he is not getting rich off GovStat and that he and his GovStat partner, Andrew Boyd, have had four clients and less than $90,000 in revenues, before taxes, since starting it.

"I'm out to prove what happens in Baltimore can happen anywhere," Peter O'Malley said.

Critics of decision

All of his clients came through his CitiStat work and referrals from CitiStat officials, a relationship that critics decry.

"That's what we call the O'Malley family and friends full-employment network," said Stephen Fugate, president of the fire officers union. "That's how politics work."

The mayor and his staff have been sensitive to such criticism.

"We don't want to get written up for nepotism for pushing my brother," Mayor O'Malley jokingly said during a CitiStat demonstration to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in late January. "We'll do that at dinner."

James Browning, president of Common Cause Maryland, a government watchdog group, said such behavior by the mayor should be questioned.

"He's stopping short of saying, `Hire my brother,' but it's not hard for people to connect the dots if Peter's name is dropped," Browning said.

Peter O'Malley said he attended dinner with his brother and Newsom but did not discuss business.

He said GovStat solicited work from San Francisco in a letter sent to Newsom long before he came to Baltimore, but that Newsom is building his own version.

"There are a lot of places I can't work because of my name," Peter O'Malley said. "It hasn't really helped me."

GovStat clients

GovStat is one of the few companies that provide such work, and its efforts reflect the larger trend of cities copying CitiStat.

GovStat's first client was the city of Miami. In fall 2002, the firm spent a few months building Miami a system like CitiStat and was paid $23,900.

Miami officials were referred to GovStat during a visit to view CitiStat.

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