Ryan Holeywell | @RyanHoleywell | July 25, 2016
When Martin O’Malley served as mayor of Baltimore from 1999 to 2007, the city faced an epidemic of vacant, derelict houses that were dangerous eyesores for many communities. But the city’s system for dealing with the homes was woefully insufficient.
If a resident called to ask the city to do something about an abandoned house, it would often take the city a year to do anything. When it finally did, a city crew would remove all the waste from the interior. A week later, a different crew would board up the house. Often, the house would get trashed again in the interim, requiring the process to reset.
It wasn’t until city officials stared tracking the process via O’Malley’s pioneering CitiStat program that it was reformed. The two crews starting working together simultaneously, and they went on rotations together to targeted neighborhoods. O’Malley said the city wouldn’t have realized just how broken the old system was — and how to fix it — if it wasn’t for CitiStat.
The program was O’Malley’s effort — groundbreaking at the time — to use data collection and analytics in order to foster accountability and problem-solving in government. When he served as Maryland governor from 2007 to 2015, he continued that work at the state level through his StateStat program.
At the time, the concept was considered novel. Today, cities across the U.S. and world widely recognize the value and role of data in improving city operations.
O’Malley discussed the Baltimore anecdote — and shared more insights about the power of data — in the latest episode of the Urban Edge podcast, recorded last week.
We caught up with him in Houston, where O’Malley was in town as part of his new gig as chairman of the advisory board of the MetroLab Network. The network is a consortium of university-city partnerships that seek to leverage data to make cities work better (Houston and Rice University are members).
O’Malley also spoke at length about the 2016 presidential campaign and shared his thoughts on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and today’s voters. O’Malley was a short-lived candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, dropping out earlier this after losing in Iowa.