We are tack­ling trash prob­lem

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - COMMENTARY - By Bernard C. “Jack” Young

In most in­stances, the telling of a strong story de­pends largely on one’s abil­ity to use words to paint a pic­ture.

But then there are mo­ments when a string of letters just won’t cut it.

This point was driven home for me over the sum­mer.

Shortly af­ter I was sworn-in as mayor, I at­tended a rou­tine brief­ing on our progress in clean­ing up trash with staffers from Ci­tiS­tat, our in-house data-crunch­ers and ac­count­abil­ity team. A se­ries of graph­ics and other sta­tis­tics caught my at­ten­tion. The data de­liv­ered a mes­sage that was un­mis­tak­able, and, quite frankly, it knocked the wind out of me.

A few weeks prior, I’d de­liv­ered a man­date to the staffers to “go wher­ever the data took them.” Our ad­min­is­tra­tion would be guided, I as­sured them, by an un­flinch­ing com­mit­ment to use data to tar­get ar­eas where our agen­cies and de­part­ments might be lag­ging be­hind. We would fo­cus our reme­dies on an open and hon­est process that iden­ti­fied our short­com­ings and en­cour­aged us to work col­lec­tively to im­prove per­for­mance in ways that the pub­lic could eas­ily mea­sure.

Mea­sur­ing the clean­li­ness of city streets and al­leys seemed like a good place to start.

I’d made re­duc­ing grime a cen­ter­piece of my ad­min­is­tra­tion and we quickly came up with a name for our ef­fort: CleanS­tat. Our fo­cus would be to im­prove the ef­fi­ciency and eq­uity of how we cleaned our city’s neigh­bor­hoods, al­leys and streets..

In Septem­ber, shortly af­ter launch­ing CleanS­tat, we dis­cov­ered that some sec­tions of the city were far­ing bet­ter than oth­ers. There was also a back­log of 311 ser­vice re­quests that num­bered in the hun­dreds, fur­ther com­pli­cat­ing our work.

The find­ings were sober­ing but we quickly got to work and crews from the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works were di­rected to re­spond to this is­sue of why some neigh­bor­hoods were get­ting bet­ter ser­vice than oth­ers.

Since then, we’ve made changes that are al­ready lead­ing to im­prove­ments. We’ve as­signed ex­tra san­i­ta­tion crews to the South­west por­tion of the city where the back­log of ser­vice re­quests was the great­est. In ad­di­tion, we’ve brought on san­i­ta­tion crews, and work­ers from other agen­cies, in­clud­ing the de­part­ments of Re­cre­ation and Parks and Gen­eral Ser­vices, to help and added week­end hours.

Our fo­cus on eq­uity is lead­ing to re­sults. In South­west Bal­ti­more — an area the re­search found needed more at­ten­tion — The De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works com­pleted 87% more prop­erty clean­ing re­quests and 274% more street and al­ley clean­ings in Oc­to­ber than Septem­ber. We were also able to re­duce the num­ber of past due clean­ing work or­ders by 25% in South­west Bal­ti­more in the month af­ter our re­view of CleanS­tat data raised ques­tions.

I know we’ve got a lot more work to do but progress is be­ing made. City­wide, in Oc­to­ber pub­lic works crews com­pleted more street and al­ley clean­ing re­quests than in any month for the past three years. Since Septem­ber, the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works has re­duced the city­wide clean­ing back­log by about 50%.

We’re also us­ing data to tackle clean­ing in new ways. Ci­tiS­tat’s anal­y­sis iden­ti­fied the blocks in Bal­ti­more where the most il­le­gal dump­ing is hap­pen­ing. We’re bring­ing agen­cies within city gov­ern­ment to­gether with com­mu­nity groups to de­velop tar­geted re­sponses in those neigh­bor­hoods. And we’re us­ing sta­tis­tics to eval­u­ate and im­prove the routes that our san­i­ta­tion crews fol­low. In ad­di­tion, we’re re­new­ing our fo­cus on in­di­vid­u­als and busi­ness that re­ceive mul­ti­ple san­i­ta­tion ci­ta­tions.

This is an all hands on deck ef­fort.

While the progress to date has been real and mea­sur­able, I want to help res­i­dents and busi­ness own­ers keep a score­card and hold us ac­count­able for our de­liv­ery of city ser­vices.

That’s why we’ve launched a pub­lic­fac­ing, first-of-its-kind for Bal­ti­more por­tal to help peo­ple eas­ily chart our progress. Our “CleanS­tat” dash­board — a user­friendly web­site that eas­ily iden­ti­fies our goals and clearly mea­sures our per­for­mance in real time and is the kind of trans­par­ent tool that will go a long way to­ward end­ing dis­par­i­ties in the de­liv­ery of city ser­vices.

While we have a long way to go, we’re all in this to­gether and are work­ing to­ward a com­mon goal of re­duc­ing trash and lit­ter in our city.

By giv­ing res­i­dents the abil­ity to mea­sure our progress, and more eas­ily iden­tify our short­com­ings, we’re look­ing to turn a cor­ner in Bal­ti­more and take a ma­jor step to­ward build­ing a more trans­par­ent gov­ern­ment for ev­ery res­i­dent and vis­i­tor.

Bernard C. “Jack” Young is Mayor of Bal­ti­more. His email is [email protected]­ti­morecity.gov and his Twit­ter han­dle is @may­or­b­cy­oung.

TALIA RICH­MAN/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Judy Tay­lor, 78, calls 311 of­ten to re­port the dirty al­ley be­hind her rowhome in South­west Bal­ti­more’s Car­roll­ton Ridge neigh­bor­hood.

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