In times of financial crisis, governments often seek new ways to control costs yet maintain high standards of service. Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley addressed this problem head-on in 1999 with his goal to "make City government responsive, accountable and cost effective." CitiStat, a program of personal accountability and focused attention to specific goals, was his solution to this challenge.
Adapted from CompStat (Innovations Award winner, 1996), a program created for the New York City Police Department, CitiStat is nothing short of confrontational. In biweekly meetings, the manager of each city agency must stand at a podium and answer questions from a panel led by the mayor or his appointed inquisitor. The questions are culled from CitiStat's statistical analyses of the agency's previous two-week performance. During the meeting, various images are projected onto two screens behind the manager: graphs of performance, recent pictures of job sites, and even the manager's face beside a performance chart. However, CitiStat was not created to assign blame; it was created to generate personal accountability for the city's challenges and focus efforts towards producing quick, effective results. In Mayor O'Malley's words, CitiStat "puts a face on the problem."
Sitting behind the manager's podium are heads of other relevant agencies. When a problem is attributed to resources or inter-agency cooperation, the other managers may be called upon to help find a solution. For instance in 2004, when an agency fell behind its goal for cleaning up after street repairs, the manager complained of inefficient four-man crews lacking sufficient equipment. The resolution, after consulting the finances manager, was to purchase more effective equipment, allowing each crew to be reduced to two. Ultimately, this permitted the department to clean twice the number of sites at approximately the same pace.
CitiStat's primary innovation is its ability to tailor performance evaluations to each agency: the animal control manager must explain an increase in strays and propose a solution; the housing manager must explain a chart of vacant houses and the plans to resolve this problem; all managers may be asked to explain each hour of their department's overtime. The financial effectiveness of the program has been estimated as a total aggregate savings of 100 million for its first four years of existence. With CitiStat's annual budget of $400,000, Baltimore estimates that its return on initial investment in the first year was over 12 million dollars.
The program's effectiveness in service delivery is also considerable. The Baltimore Sun reported that in 2002 the City took eight days to remove an abandoned vehicle, in 2004 it took five. Also in 2004, the City's goal of responding to missed trash collection complaints within 24 hours was achieved 82 percent of the time, up from 44 percent in 2002. Since CitiStat's statistics are published on the city website, the public also benefits from the increased governmental transparency.
Finally, CitiStat's transferability is also proven. GovStat, a company started by the Mayor's brother Peter O'Malley, has had success marketing the CitiStat model to governments worldwide. From gravediggers in Indjija, Serbia to graffiti in London, from absenteeism in Atlanta, Georgia, to criminal activity in Buffalo, New York, CitiStat is quickly becoming the way governments manage their services and address the diverse challenges that they confront.