Politics

Louisville is part of a small group of American cities being recognized for their use of data in improving how the government works.

The city received a silver level What Works City Certification, which is an extension of the existing Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative by the same name, the organization announced Thursday. Los Angeles was the only city to earn a gold level certification, while Boston, Kansas City, New Orleans, San Diego, Seattle and Washington, D.C., also received recognition at the silver level.

The three-year certification identifies cities who are best in class using data to run their operations, said Simone Brody, executive director of What Works Cities.

Brody said more than 200 cities applied for the inaugural cohort of the certification. The What Works Cities team evaluated them through an online assessment and in-person visit.

“We tried to really understand how these processes were changing the way governments made decisions to better utilize the resources they have to affect residents,” she said.

Data management, public engagement and performance management were three areas of focus for the assessment. Brody said she wanted to see cities using data to, for example, shift funding to programs that the data show are working well and away from those that aren’t.

“I think what we found with Louisville and across the board is that there’s really an opportunity for cities to get better at taking this treasure trove of data and using it to make decisions about how they fund programs,” she said.

Brody said Louisville is an example of a city that’s been doing this well for some time.

That may be, but Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said he won’t be satisfied until the city earns a gold level certification. He said he plans to use the What Works Cities assessment to identify areas for improvement. That assessment was not available before press time.

Fischer said the certification shows that Louisville is implementing business best practices in government. He pointed to growth in Metro revenue while the employee headcount remained flat as an example of data-based performance improvement.

What Works Cities recognized the Metro government-wide LouieStat program, the upcoming bus rapid transit program on Dixie Highway and Louisville’s partnership with traffic app Waze to better understand urban congestion as successes.

Although the certification comes with no financial award, Fischer and Brody said it offers more than just bragging rights.

“One of the great benefits of this is that we’re a member of a large mutual-learning cohort across the country,” Fischer said. “So the cities that are leaders in this effort, we all benchmark each other, we work with each other to see what we’re doing well, how we can learn from each other.”

Fischer said that collaboration will accelerate improvement and innovation in city governments.

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.