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Solutions Corner

Performance Management

A while back I posted on best practices in “open data.” Opening data is great, it leads to a world of possibilities on improving government efficiency and civic participation, among other benefits. But opening data and making it available to the public is only the first step. The real question is, how can you best take advantage of that world of possibilities that’s been opened to you?

The National League of Cities (NLC) suggests a solution: Performance Management. Performance management is the process of continuously reviewing performance data, and is the key to data-driven decision-making by city leaders. This solution allows local governments to provide city services that are driven by community priorities, and to use information to constantly and even proactively improve those services. In a nutshell, you can think of this as essentially a city’s transition from knowledge to wisdom, and it is an incredibly powerful and growing field of urban innovative practices.

The NLC has put together this report of best practices in performance management from cities around the country, which highlights commonalities among these systems and also how they are tailored to the individual needs of the city. It also provides helpful strategies for cities who want to move towards this data-driven approach. Check it out!

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~ Kimberly Vanderhoef, Esq.

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Comprehensive local strategies to combat homelessness

In talking with the residents of our cities, I’ve heard a lot of passion about addressing the issue of homelessness. But I’ve also seen a lot of discouragement about the difficulties of addressing homelessness on the local level. While it certainly is a broad, national issue, there are effective ways that local communities can address it with workable, constructive solutions!

For example, The National Alliance to End Homelessness has a wide array of resources for communities to combat homelessness. One great resource is The Ten Essentials, a Guide to help communities identify effective permanent solutions to homelessness, which are supported by evidence-based research. They have created a Ten Essentials Toolkit that can serve as a blueprint for communities to follow in addressing this issue, and can be tackled as a comprehensive approach or even one by one!

Using strategies and innovative programs outlined in these materials, communities across the country are making progress! Check it out, and see if it’s something you’d like to start in your city!

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~ Kimberly Vanderhoef, Esq.

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Addressing Abandoned Properties

Abandoned and vacant properties are a huge problem in New Jersey cities – they can be magnets for criminal activity, cause public health issues, decrease neighboring property values, and just generally diminish the quality of life for residents. But I’m finding more and more innovative solutions that are addressing the issue, and I wanted to share them with you!

In Trenton we were recently involved with the Trenton Revitalization Committee in their efforts to survey abandoned properties throughout the city. The results of the survey, which showed that 23% of city buildings and lots are vacant, motivated Mayor Jackson’s Five-Point Plan to address abandoned properties. Residents in Jersey City are now also looking into doing a survey of abandoned properties to assist the city.

A lot of cities around the country are addressing the issue of abandoned properties, sometimes with the creation and maintenance of an Abandoned Property List, or Vacant Property Registration Ordinances, which require property owners to pay an escalating fee for registration. But recently a new tool became available under New Jersey law. The new state law, if adopted in a municipal ordinance, would require foreclosing creditors (including out-of-state creditors) to maintain properties or pay stiff daily fines. This is a really valuable tool and should definitely be utilized by New Jersey cities! If you're interested in making this happen for your city, you can find more information here. Best of luck!

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~ Kimberly Vanderhoef, Esq.

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Improving Open Data

In researching best practices in Open Data, I just came across this great Open Data Bill in Montgomery County, where Baltimore is located. According to the Sunlight Foundation, the Bill includes numerous best practices in open data! Check out this interview with Daniel Hoffman, Chief Innovation Officer, on the challenges and successes of the bill.

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~ Kimberly Vanderhoef, Esq.

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Litter's Bugging People to do Something

By Ricardo Kaulessar

A video of Jersey City government employee Brooke Hansson going off on an expletive-laced rant about trash strewn around near her Bostwick Avenue home in the city’s Greenville section went public in September of last year.

While Hansson gained unwanted attention for getting her point across in a manner that was considered by some as unworthy of her position, she also gained support from some residents for bring attention to a problem that has been plaguing the town over the years – the unwelcome sight of litter in the streets.

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop has undertaken a major initiative to deal with this situation since he was sworn into office in July 2013.

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Trenton YMCA to operate four city pools this summer; use data to track swimmers

By Steve Chernoski

School’s out and summer is here. To cool off in the heat, four city pools will be opened, free for city residents as usual and will again be operated by The YMCA of Trenton.

Last year, the city sought to outsource the operation of city pools. The YMCA put in the only valid bid and was awarded a contract at a cost of $205,515. Once the 2015 contract is signed, this year’s planned cost will be slightly more than that, $216,000, because the pools are expected to be open two extra weeks.

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Rutgers Students Pay It Forward

By Jane Lopez

The Rutgers University School of Public Affairs & Administration class of 2015 have taken the time to give back to the city of Newark by volunteering. Rutgers has rolled out a Pay it Forward Day where graduating seniors take the opportunity to spend a few hours in one of the many organizations giving back to the community.

Students were able to give their service to the Newark YMCA for clothing distribution, the Barat Foundation for a mural painting or the councilman office of Anibal Ramos in the North ward for a neighborhood cleanup. There was also a community gardening with the Boys and Girls Club of Newark and landscaping with UVSO. 

 

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Dear coaches

Q: What can I do, as an individual, to help my city be more storm resilient?

A: There are a lot of things you can do! One simple and cost-effective solution would be to start a tree fund to collect the resources you need to plant more storm resilient trees in your city. Check out the model ordinance here. Best of luck!


Q: How can I improve opportunities for our youth to learn how to become civically engaged?

A: One great option is to start a Leadership Civics course at a high school in your city. It teaches students about the power centers of local government and how they can have an impact in their city. You can find out more about it here. Good luck!

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Funded in part by Rita Allen Foundation, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and Princeton Area Community Foundation