Folks in Arlington love to say their city is one a kind, and indeed they have a bonafide reason, thanks to Bloomberg Philanthropies.
The City of Arlington made history recently when it became the only city in Texas to be honored by Bloomberg Philanthropies, receiving a 2019 What Works Cities Certification. Arlington is one of only seven in the United States to receive this honor.
What Works Cities Certification rates how well cities are managed by measuring the extent to which city leaders incorporate data and evidence in their decision-making.
Arlington achieved certification at the silver level, and is the first Texas city recognized for implementing data policies and practices designed to improve residents’ lives. Since 2017, the city has made a more concerted effort to both use and make data more accessible in order to better connect its residents with services, create efficiencies, determine community priorities and how to allocate resources, and spur collaboration with the private sector.
“We are proud to join a very small number of cities across the country who have achieved What Works Cities Certification,” City Manager Trey Yelverton said. “The taxpayers invest a lot in various technology solutions that are intended to help us manage our resources effectively. Whether we are talking about our streets, our water, or resources to keep our community safe, we are using data to drive our decision-making. We are using the tools that are given to us to maximize the results for our citizens and we are going to continue to do so.”
Cities are evaluated on factors such as:
*Dedicated staff responsible for helping departments use data to track their progress.
*Contracts are awarded based on past performance.
*Meetings are focused on numbers.
*Key datasets are open to the public.
*There is transparency both in the goals set and the progress toward achieving them.
Cities must demonstrate that they have policies in place to manage the risks associated with sophisticated data practices. The program also requires that cities publicly communicate their use of data best practices and engage community stakeholders in the process.
The certification program launched in 2017, and U.S. cities with populations of 30,000 and higher are eligible to participate. Cities are awarded silver, gold, or platinum Certification
Among Arlington’s highlights are:
*Forming a multi-departmental Data Governance and Innovation team.
*Adopting an open data policy based on citizen feedback.
*Continuing to develop its Open Arlington portal, which currently offers 39 data sets ranging from interactive maps to water use by zip code.
*Placing an emphasis on incorporating data in articles, videos and social media to communicate with the public on issues ranging from the city’s budget to the performance measures of individual departments or programs.
*Adapting to rapidly changing technology to answer common questions that the public may have through the tools, such as smart phones or smart speakers, that people rely on for information. For example, residents can download the City of Arlington Alexa skill to access information about a growing number of topics through their Alexa-enable devices. Residents can also find real-time updates on street, water and draining projects through the Street Tracker app.
*Seeks opportunities to partner with researchers, developers, students and entrepreneurs to explore real-world applications of city data that could solve community issues, provide targeted services or spur investment within Arlington.
Among several accomplishments for which Arlington was recognized was using data to identify and secure federal funding for an innovative solution for public transit through a partnership with the rideshare company Via. More than 156,000 trips have been made using the service since it began in December of 2017.
“We are proud to celebrate Arlington and the other certified cities and recognize their achievements for others to learn from,” said Simone Brody, Executive Director of What Works Cities. “These well-managed cities are better solving the problems facing their communities and addressing residents’ needs. They are stretching every dollar by using data to set priorities, budget effectively, and ensure investments are yielding desired results. They are also putting data at the core of their efforts to prepare for future challenges.”