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Tacoma: Excellence in Performance Management and Open Data

Tacoma 24/7 logo

Tacoma, Washington, is a participant in What Works Cities (WWC), an initiative launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies to help 100 mid-sized American cities enhance their use of data and evidence to improve services, inform local decision-making, and engage residents. Tacoma has a history of excellence in the use of performance measures. The city is a repeat recipient of the Certificate of Excellence in Performance Management from ICMA, having first received it in 2013, and City Manager T. C. Broadnax is a member of ICMA’s Performance Management Advisory Committee.

The following description of Tacoma’s successes is republished from the WWC website with updates from the city and the addition of graphics from the city’s “Tacoma 24/7” program.

Setting the Stage

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland and City Manager T. C. Broadnax have been longstanding supporters of data- and evidence-based practices, understanding that these practices could play an even greater role in strategic planning and service delivery at every level of city government. Most importantly, the city has been working on ways to improve the equity and transparency of service delivery and recognizes that a strong data- and evidence-based approach would help evaluate services and inform decision-making.

The Opportunity

The city of Tacoma had been working with data- and evidence-based practices for a while. It was already producing quarterly performance reports, Tacoma 24/7, which was a resident-focused report on performance across seven services areas and 24 key measures. Each quarter, a department would be highlighted to present on its performance around key measures, history, targets, and comparative data. Here is an example from a performance report:

Tacoma pothole graphic

Although the 24/7 initiative was effective for informing citizens, the city needed a common, centralized system and better approach to its use of data- and evidence-based practices to extend the use of data beyond the top leadership through to departments and, finally, to frontline staff. With the release of the city’s strategic plan, Tacoma 2025, the city was well-positioned to expand on its current practices.

Partnering for Success

With commitment from both Mayor Strickland and City Manager Broadnax and enthusiasm from their team, WWC identified two ways for Tacoma to partner with the experts at the Center for Government Excellence at Johns Hopkins University (GovEx), Results for America, and the Sunlight Foundation.

First, the city and the GovEx team worked together to build a performance management program that would help the city use data more effectively to drive decision-making and track progress toward its strategic goals. In particular, Broadnax and his team highlighted an opportunity to clarify and break down barriers around alignment between data reporting programs, such as Tacoma 2025 and Tacoma 24/7. To address these challenges, the city designed a framework for a stat program to be piloted and implemented with the 2017–2018 Biennial Budget. The program will track ten-year and two-year goals aligned with the Tacoma 2025 priority areas and will include discussions on the progress of departmental and citywide indicators.

Take a look at Tacoma’s 2017-2018 Proposed Budget to see how the city incorporated into the budget process these new goals and measures, which will be the basis for future online reporting and performance stat conversations.

Tacom snip from Word


Second, the city and the GovEx team, along with support from Sunlight, worked to expand the city’s open data program to better integrate it into ongoing practices. City leadership and staff expressed the need for the organization to communicate more openly with residents and City Council about city government processes, decision-making, and recent successes. As a result, Tacoma passed a City Council Resolution and a comprehensive open data policy, while also creating a process for releasing data to the community. This included prioritizing the release of datasets related to the Tacoma 2025 strategic plan.

Underlying both the performance management and open data work was an opportunity to begin dismantling departmental silos, reorienting the culture of government to data-driven decision-making, and incorporating data and evidence into all aspects of city decision-making.

Key Accomplishments

As a result of these initiatives, the city accomplished the following:

  • Developed ten-year and two-year goals for each department aligned with Tacoma 2025 priority areas, began collecting performance measures for each goal, and engaged departments in training to set goals and targets on an ongoing basis.
  • Developed departmental and citywide goals to be shared with residents via the biennial budget, finalized key community indicators with the Tacoma 2025 steering committee, and designed Tacoma’s stat program to have a public reporting component.
  • Designed a framework for a stat program to be piloted and implemented with the 2017–2018 Biennial Budget to facilitate tracking and discussion of departmental and citywide indicators aligned with Tacoma 2025.
  • Passed a City Council Resolution affirming Tacoma’s commitment to open data, developed an administrative policy to accompany the resolution, and set the stage for ongoing governance by identifying potential structures for an open data governance committee.
  • Launched a data inventory process by working directly with departments to identify relevant datasets and began prioritizing datasets related to the Tacoma 2025 community strategic plan for consideration for public release.
  • Included annual public reports in its open data resolution, launched interdepartmental conversations to identify relevant data to open across departments, and engaged Tacoma Public Utilities in discussions to continue to open high-priority utilities data.

The city of Tacoma has made significant strides toward Mayor Strickland and City Manager Broadnax’s vision of providing greater quality and equity of service for residents through a more responsive and open government.

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