Remarks at the Baltimore Stat Summit
September 10, 2008
So we’ve had a lot of success in Baltimore, thanks primarily to the good people we serve. Thanks secondarily to the people who serve them, all the employees in our City government who really rose to the challenge.
Jacke Maple insisted that everything could be “stat’ed” and everything that could be measured. And we used to play this game where I would throw things at him and then he’d reel back and rattle off 14 performance measures for whether or not we’re reaching at-risk children.
But another thing that Jack used to say was that the things that get measured are the things that get done and only the things that get measured are the things that get done.
We accomplished a lot of good things. We were able to reduce violent crime by 40 percent to its lowest levels of four decades by the time we left and Mayor Dixon’s very able administration took over.
Together we were able to back up – when William Donald Schaefer accused us having absolutely no vision in this O’Malley administration – we answered with our 48 hour pothole guarantee. And by golly, we hit it 98 percent of the time.
And we all then did something very revolutionary and we actually sent thank you notes from the Mayor to the men and women on the crews that hit the 48 hour pothole guarantee. This was Jack’s other truism. He said in any organization, 10 percent of the people are real achievers, even when the chips are down the achievers are going to go out there and run through walls for you and really succeed. Ten percent are natural slackers, God bless their hearts. And even when things aren’t going well, and the City’s life is threatened, they’ll be figuring out ways to slack.
And then 80 percent of us – 80 percent of us could really go either way, depending on whether the executive power recognizes it or not. And so that’s why we sent thank you notes. That’s why we did the ballgame tickets, that’s why we did the other things.
And in that slight tilt of that 80 percent, from the slackers to the achievers, is record leading progress. Record leading progress and a better future for a city that had its back up against the wall.
Our population has now grown in the City of Baltimore. And thanks to Michael Phelps, also a performance measurement tool, we now have the best walking, talking swimming advertisement for great City living, especially for young people, that we’ve ever had.
Together we reduced the number of children exposed to high levels of lead by 65 percent. Not a small thing when you consider how many of our children were in substandard housing and the ingestion of that lead -- do you think it’s coincidental that our kids are achieving at the highest levels they ever have in our elementary schools and we’ve been able to cut by 65 percent that lead? Is full day kindergarten a big part of that? Yes, probably a bigger part of it. But if you’re the mom of the kid, whose potential isn’t capped by the lead, it’s a very, very significant part of that.
Together we identified and reclaimed more than 5,900 vacant homes and buildings, took title to them, cleaned them, boarded them, sometimes bricked them. We found once they were bricked, it was harder to pull the boards off. But we now have title to 5,900 homes so we can bundle them and actually get them to – hopefully away from that dead capital and redevelop them.
Together we got to the point where trash-filled alleys which once took two months to clean were getting cleaned up in less than three weeks.
I think the boarding thing was one of the most phenomenal improvements. The cleaning and boarding of a house went from eight months or nine months and now we’re at 14 days. Roughly. That’s the guarantee that we’re able to give people over the phone. Not a small thing if you’re living next to that house.
We’ve been working to implement StateStat now at the State level and also BayStat at the State level. We’re already making some important progress in a relatively short period of time. Because of the performance measurement we were able, with some confidence to close the horrible House of Corrections. One of the worst, most dilapidated deficient prisons that any civilized people would ever maintain. And fortunately, we maintain it no longer. Closed it in 50 days and that’s an annualized savings of $10 million a year.
We’ve been able to eliminate $20 million in overtime costs, save taxpayers $20 million by increasing Medicaid fraud recoveries.
We’ve been able to eliminate a backlog of 24,000 unanalyzed DNA samples. You know, people hear a lot about the huge structural deficit in our State that was left by our predecessor. We were left a deficit also of 24,000 DNA samples that should have been analyzed and never were. That’s 24,000 pieces of evidence. And if you don’t have those to match the crime scene evidence there’s no chance of getting a hit or clearing those crimes. We have now had more hits -- that is matching of the sample with a suspected perpetrator -- in 18 months than we had in the prior eight years.
Imagine the families that have been spared the tragedy of a murder or a homicide, a rape or some other crime because we’re able to do job one again. And that’s only going to improve with time.
And working together, we’ve also been able to identify and fix more than 100 problems in our juvenile detention facilities. Talk about -- you know, the Super Fund site. We had so many problems in our juvenile justice department. We’re fixing them. It’s like a giant -- what do you call it, a giant punch list, but it’s on really important life and death stuff. And so we’re now experiencing I think Statewide a 37 percent reduction in juvenile homicides, which is also the biggest homicide reduction we’ve had year to date.
Show me my house.
During my days as Mayor of Baltimore, I had occasion to often attend services at Bethel AME Church. I think given our unique demography and my ethnic make-up, I probably have been to more Baptist and AME services than any Irish Catholic politician today. And at Frank Reid’s church, Frank -- and some of you know Frank -- he’ll say, “If it’s not about the relationship,” and the congregation will call back, “it’s not about anything.”
If it’s not about the relationship, it’s not about anything.
I think at the end of the day, probably the most important thing about CitiStat, the most important thing about performance measure, the most important thing about the progress we make with one another and through our government – the most important thing is the relationship.
The relationship between ourselves and others, between ourselves and time, between ourselves and place, between ourselves and this space we share with others. The relationship maybe between ourselves and God.
Why do teenagers and young people flock to FaceBook and to My Space? It’s not for the
solitude, it’s for the relationship. It’s for the belonging. Not for distance, but for proximity, not for division, but for connection.
Show me my house. Show me my house.
It’s to know, I think, that thing that all of us would like to know, and that is that “I matter.” That “I matter to my government,” that “I matter to my neighbors,” that “I have value and am needed by my neighbors.” That “I know that my government works for me and, therefore, matters to me.” It’s to understand “what is around me.”
Or maybe it’s because in that deeper, innate instant to better understand our relationship to the forces and people that are around us.
You know, there’s a gentleman named Father David Hollenbach of Boston College, who wrote that, “the biblical understanding of freedom, portrayed in the account of the Exodus, is not simply freedom from constraint, but freedom for participation in the shared life of people.”
Thomas Aquinas says it another way, that, “any seeker of a higher truth, or a God, must eventually and inevitably return to the idea of community.”
Dr. King said it another way, that, “we are bound together in a web of mutuality.”
Show me my house.
It’s the idea that we progress not on the weakness, but on the strength of our neighbors. The idea that one person can make a difference and each of us must try. If politics is the geography of ideas, then perhaps through our deeds, perhaps through our actions, perhaps through our relationships it’s up to us to become the new coordinates of a new sort of geography -- a newer, deeper understanding of why our actions matter. And why it matters in our relationship to one another, and the progress that we have the freedom to choose, to choose to make.
It’s all about the relationship, our relationship to one another, our relationship to a higher truth, a truth that proclaims the dignity of every individual, and a truth that proclaims that we each have a responsibility to make this world a better place.
Show me my house.
Thanks very much.