ESRI Federal User Conference
February 18, 2009
It is great to be here with all of you today,... Let me begin by thanking you for everything you are doing to help move our country forward. Indeed your very presence at this conference and embrace of GIS gives me great hope and optimism.
Leading the charge in the GIS revolution are the good people of ESRI, and I want to say a special word of thanks to Jack Dangermond. There are very few people in this world whose talents and insights have had the sort of widespread impact on management and governance as have Jack.
As we assemble here this afternoon, our country – and our world – are facing very serious challenges. Indeed, economic turmoil and the compounding of human propensities for self-destruction and hyper-consumption of the planet’s resources threaten our way of life as never before.
Yet, we are able to face these challenges from our own cutting edge of history – a time in human existence when our own creativity and imagination have expanded the outer bounds of achievement and potential as never before, and by exponents never imagined. In a relative instant of human development, we have taken the vastness of this planet and made it intimately finite for the first time in human consciousness.
Today, GIS technology, imaginative public policy, and the “rational application of human effort to human problems” allow us to change the course of a city’s history, a state’s history, a nation’s history … house-by-house, block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood – and yes, neighbor by neighbor.
Such is the power of this merger of mapping with the coordination of human effort, provided we are unafraid of setting goals, unafraid of openly measuring the performance of our public institutions and efforts; unafraid to press forward and change course when necessary to move our graphs in the right direction.
Serving the people of the great State of Maryland as their Governor, and also having served the people of the great City of Baltimore as their Mayor, I am more convinced than ever of the indispensable importance of these principles and the centrality of mapping to their rational application. I want to spend our time together this afternoon talking about our experience in Maryland. As I do, I ask you to consider the following questions:
First, why is geography and GIS technology so essential to confronting the biggest challenges that we face as Americans?
And second, why is it that virtually any display of GIS technology quickly inspires someone one to raise their hand and ask: “…Can you show me my house?”
Can you show me my house. We’ll come back to that,… but first let’s talk about how geography and geographic information systems can be the great propeller of progress.
As old as the human condition itself are certain timeless questions: “Where are we going?” “How will we know if we’re getting there?” These are questions Moses no doubt heard asked of him as he led his people for forty years through the desert. If as Arnold Toynbee suggests “man (and by man he also means woman) progresses in response to adversity,” these are the very questions that provoke this progress in response to adversity.
These are questions we asked in Baltimore when, nearly a decade ago, we were handed the keys to a 16,000 person, $2 billion a year operation known as the Baltimore City Government. With these keys came the adversity of one of the highest violent crime rates and one of the highest addiction rates in the nation; the adversity of 30 years population loss which left us with fewer residents and less revenues; the adversity of underperforming schools, underperforming and unresponsive city services, littered streets and alleys, thousands of vacant buildings and worse yet, vacant hearts.
From this adversity emerged our mission statement: to make Baltimore a safer, cleaner, healthier place; to make our City a better place for children to grow up; and to make our City a better place where businesses invest and grow. Show me my house.
In Baltimore, our citizens voted for change, and they knew that our City’s survival depended on that change coming about as quickly as possible. Show me my house.
But when our new City Administration rolled up our sleeves and got to work, we found that there was really very little in city government that was being measured in a timely, accurate, or real-time manner. Information was often being collected but rarely, if ever, was that information being shared with all or even shared with managers and executives.
You see, those of us in the public sector tend to be very good at measuring “inputs.” For example, we ask “what’s the funding level for environmental protection?” But less often do ask, “how much nitrogen are we keeping out of this particular waterway this month versus last month?”
Yet it’s impossible to steer a ship without a compass or controls. Measuring outputs and outcomes is essential to the pursuit of progress because they tell us where our challenges and opportunities lie.
The Willingness to Change in Order to Move the Graphs Forward
Data collection and GIS mapping without action, of course, are pointless. That’s why Jack Maple’s ComStat tenets (adapted from those he put in place with the NYPD) immediately became our four basic tenets of CitiStat: timely accurate information shared by all, rapid deployment of resources, effective tactics and strategies, and relentless follow-up and assessment.
Together with the citizens of Baltimore, we were able to make progress for all; and together we were all able to see this progress. If we can get the first slide I want to show you how – through the “rational application of human effort to human problems” – we were able to move our graphs in the right direction:
|SLIDE 1: (Title Slide)
SLIDE 2: Month-by-month, year-by-year we succeeded in cutting down on lost work days, complaints, and excessive overtime at our Bureau of Solid Waste.
SLIDES 3-4: And working together with the Citizens of Baltimore, we succeeded in moving our graphs on crime – achieving a 40% drop in violent crime by the time we left office. Here we see the graphs moving in the right direction on homicides and non-fatal shootings.
We have some graphs that move in the wrong direction too but unfortunately we don’t have time to show them.
GIS and Progress for All in Baltimore
To drive progress and build trust with our public, we started geo-mapping every conceivable service, problem, and opportunity so we could measure outcomes and performance, not once a year, but every day. And we deployed our resources to attack the problems and realize the opportunities.
Why is this so important? Because a map doesn’t know whether a neighborhood is black or white, or rich or poor, or Democratic or Republican, but it does know where our problems and opportunities lie. Show me my House.
Can we get the next slide?
|SLIDE 5: Mapping our cleaning and boarding operations helped us to reduce average response times from 319 day to 5 days for cleaning and 153 days to 5 days for boarding.
SLIDE 6: GIS also helped guide our progress on illegal dumping,…
SLIDE 7: On reducing instances of lead poisoning among our children,…
SLIDE 8: And, demolishing vacant homes and buildings so we could reclaim them for redevelopment and urban renewal….
SLIDES 9-17: Most importantly, we used mapping to help us reduce crime and save lives. Can we have the next slide? These red shaped areas on this slide from 1999 show the most deadly areas of our city. By mapping and targeting resources to the most crime challenged areas, block-by-block, street-by-street we were able to chip away each year. Next slides please.
While some may scoff at attacking potholes, crime, trash and grime, we believed – and continue to believe -- that there are some basic aspirations shared by all of humanity,… that there is no political ideology to picking up illegally dumped garbage, to removing graffiti, to cleaning an alley; and all children regardless of their parents party affiliation, deserve a healthy start, a decent home, and a place to play where they don’t have to dodge hypodermic needles or bullets. Show me my house.