How Dayton Sets an Example on Transparency

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This is a guest post by Dayton, Ohio, Mayor Nan Whaley.

Dayton’s data transparency initiative, Dayton Open Data, is transforming the city government from the inside out.

Transparency tools are powerful for our democracy, bringing vital information about local government to homes, libraries and community meetings. With a computer or smart phone, our residents can now participate and interact with their government at their convenience. And inside city hall, staff has modernized processes and implemented business intelligence tools to move Dayton’s government into the future.

In 2015, I challenged the city to publish our budget and financial information online. The outcome, the Dayton Open Data portal, was an all hands-on deck push with contributions from employees across the organization. A strategic team was created to choose the right software, and to plan, implement and troubleshoot the new tool. OpenGov was chosen to provide the software, and by the fall, Dayton Open Data was ready to launch.

For the first time, Dayton’s residents and stakeholders have access to the city’s current budget and financials in one place. Residents no longer have to call city hall to have basic budget questions answered. If they want to know the amount of the city’s general fund budget or see the latest monthly financial statements, they can log on to the website and review, dollar for dollar, the results.

But we didn’t stop there. After a successful 0.25 percent income tax referendum in 2016, the city expanded its transparency offerings. This time, to show residents how their tax dollars were being spent, the “Your Dollars, Your Neighborhood” dashboards were launched to demonstrate progress toward each of the city’s five funding commitments.

The city maintains over 6,000 vacant lots, a result that was exacerbated by the housing crisis during the Great Recession. The new dashboards not only show how many lots the city mows, but also how frequently. A clickable, integrated map shows users where each mowed lot is located.

Thanks to the new levy, Dayton now provides access to high-quality universal preschool for all four year olds living in the city. When parents are looking for the closest preschool to their home or work, they can type their address into the Preschool Promise map. Preschools nearby will populate, including information about the quality rating for the schools. This makes it simple and easy to find a quality preschool in a convenient location for families living in Dayton.

This year, we are expanding our Dayton Open Data Transparency Portal to include more performance dashboards, as well as dashboards to visualize the results of the city’s annual public opinion survey. Our goal is to provide as much information to the public as possible, so that they can see the value and effectiveness of city services and investments in real time.

Dayton’s transparency initiative has given the organization the motivation and opportunity to become more efficient and effective. There is a new urgency to eliminate outdated, paper processes to move Dayton’s government forward. Transparency tools not only enhance participation in government, but they also have the power to change operational practices for the better. Thanks to Dayton Open Data, valuable information about Dayton’s government is now on-demand, 24/7, at the convenience of the user.

When I’m at my next Porch Tour of Dayton’s neighborhoods and a resident asks me how many roads have been paved this year, I can pull out my phone and show them. That resident will see every road in Dayton, and the day it was last repaved. I can show residents how much progress has been made, mile for mile. That is the power of transparency.

 

Document About the Author: First elected to the Dayton City Commission in 2005, Nan Whaley was the youngest women ever chosen for a commission seat. She was proud to be elected as Dayton’s mayor in 2013 by a double-digit majority. In 2017 she was re-elected mayor without opposition, a first in Dayton’s history. As mayor, she has focused on the areas of community development, manufacturing, and women and children.