Cities driving innovation

One of the advantages of the United States’ federal system of government is that it produces a multitude of governmental units capable producing new means of addressing problems that all Americans face. One example of local innovation is Boston’s Innovation District built to capitalize on underdeveloped real estate near the downtown waterfront. Another example of local innovation is Seattle’s response to the federal government’s failure to ratify the Kyoto Accords in which the city committed to reduce its portion of greenhouse emissions and succeeded in doing so within four years.

However, one of the greatest innovations has been the adoption of analytic tools to direct the allocation of resources. One of the pioneers in doing so was New York’s Compstat program which enabled the Police Department to allocate law enforcement resources to where crimes were more prevalent. Building on New York’s experience, Baltimore initiated Citistat to apply the New York Police Department’s experience to all city departments and agencies.

One objective of Citistat was to make visible improvements in the delivery of city services. Accordingly, one of the top priorities was to increase the speed in filling potholes, working towards a guarantee of filling all potholes within two days. However, Citistat was also applied in less visible ways, such as tracking worker absenteeism so that the need for overtime could be reduced. Following the results in Baltimore, Citistat was translated for state service in Maryland and adopted in other states like Washington and Pennsylvania.


Behn, Robert D. (2007). What All Mayors Would Like to Know About Baltimore’s CitiStat Performance Strategy.

Gabrieli, John (2014). “Trickle-Up Government.” Harvard Political Review.

Perez, Theresa and Reece Rushing (2007). How Data-Driven Government Can Increase Efficiency & Effectiveness.

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