Vermont Business Magazine Mayor Miro Weinberger today released an executive order to create Burlington’s first open data policy, and at the same time, released major upgrades to both the City’s open data platform and the “BTVStat” performance dashboard that tracks City operations. The open data platform and BTVStat performance dashboard further improve the public’s ability to access City data in open, machine-readable formats and to understand and evaluate the City’s performance across a variety of different metrics.
The executive order, developed in cooperation with the Sunlight Foundation, outlines the principles, standards, and governance framework that will guide Burlington’s open data program.
“From the first days of my administration, we have worked to better collect, organize, and analyze data and use that information to shape the City’s decision-making,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “That same data can be a valuable resource for residents, researchers, and local businesses. Today’s actions to improve the public’s access to municipal information will, over time, make City government more accountable and responsive to the needs of our residents, and contribute to innovations by other stakeholders in our community as well.”
Open Data Policy
In the spirit of open government, the Mayor’s executive order considers City data to be open by default. As a result of this order, the City will strive to proactively publish City datasets containing information that relate to City operations or programs, while being consistent with public records law, safeguarding sensitive data such as personnel information, and recognizing that not all data the City currently collects or possesses is in a readily available dataset. This executive order applies to all City departments that create or acquire information, records, or data on behalf of the City.
As a result of the executive order, the City will also add standard language to contracts to guarantee the retention of records and datasets created by third-party contractors employed by the City where appropriate, and the Innovation & Technology (I&T) Department will identify “data stewards” to represent every City department. Data stewards will be responsible for managing their respective department’s inventory of datasets to be published through an online open data portal, in coordination with the I&T Department. Implementation of the open data program will be overseen by the Chief Innovation Officer and supported by the City’s lead data analyst.
“The Mayor’s executive order, the improvements to the open data platform, and the updates to the interactive performance dashboard allow for better insight for residents into the City’s work and create new ways for City departments to share and use data to save time, save money, and foster collaboration on projects that involve teams from across the City,” said Brian Lowe, the City’s Chief Innovation Officer. “I am grateful to the Mayor for his support, to the I&T team for their outstanding work, and to community partners like Code for BTV that have helped shape our thinking.”
The open data policy (attached) was drafted using best practices outlined by the Sunlight Foundation, a national non-partisan organization that uses “civic technologies, open data, policy analysis and journalism to make our government and politics more accountable and transparent to all.” The City’s I&T team shared a draft of the open data policy on GitHub for two weeks this fall and sought feedback from City stakeholders and representatives of the tech community, and also requested comment through Front Porch Forum. The I&T team welcomes thoughts from others about what data would be most useful by emailing email@example.com.
"The City of Burlington's open data policy demonstrates the government's commitment to transparency and openness, and the decision to involve the community in the policymaking process ensures residents are well-represented in City decision making,” said Greg Jordan-Detamore, Open Cities Product Lead at the Sunlight Foundation. “We're looking forward to following Burlington's continuing efforts to become a data- and people-driven city."
Open Data Platform
The City’s enhanced open data portal allows residents to view, visualize, export, or combine data in a machine-readable format. The City currently has more than 30 datasets organized within eight categories on the platform, and the I&T team plans to publish additional data in the coming months as it becomes available. To build the improved platform, soliciting multiple bids, the City selected OpenDataSoft, a company that has helped more than 250 governments and companies across the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia to make data more accessible and usable by the broader public.
“The biggest win here is the new policy and commitment to transparency and inclusion that open data enables,” said Nick Floersch, Code for BTV Co-Captain. “The real value to the citizens is going to be knowing that they can access updated, curated, and managed data. The policy and renewed focus on this building block of democratic government makes it possible for people to know more about what is going on in fine detail, and is what Code for BTV is most excited about.”
“We believe that the power of open data will help drive innovation, increase civic participation, and improve how the City serves our residents,” said Carolyn Felix, the City’s BTVStat Analyst. “The new open data portal, hosted on OpenDataSoft, will provide a more efficient way for people to access City data. Our hope is that by making certain City data open, we will spark opportunities for data analysts, entrepreneurs, and technology developers to leverage City data and services in new innovative ways.”
The City has the ability to place an unlimited number of datasets on the portal, provided they are under 100,000 total rows of data and conform to the requirements outlined in the Mayor’s open data executive order.
BTVStat Performance Dashboard
BTVStat is a performance management approach that Mayor Weinberger implemented in 2016 to track and improve the City’s performance on a range of measures encompassing operations and equity. As part of BTVStat, City Department Heads gather together every month to review the metrics for three or four Departments and discuss how City teams can collectively identify challenges, make operations more transparent, track progress, control costs, and promote accountability, learning, and continuous improvement.
The updated BTVStat performance dashboard consolidates many of those measures from across the City and organizes them into categories for public review and evaluation. The dashboard is organized by six thematic categories and includes more than 20 metrics, such as crime statistics, library circulation, housing metrics, and City workforce demographics.
As with the open data portal, the I&T team would welcome community suggestions on what kind of information and metrics would be the most helpful or interesting to see, subject to limitations on data collection and others noted above. Please contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.
About the Innovation & Technology Department
The Innovation & Technology Department (I&T) was created by Mayor Weinberger and City Council in 2015 and is responsible for data analysis and continuous improvement efforts, the BTVStat performance management system, the City’s IT infrastructure, and several special projects providing new services or generating new revenues for the City. The Department applies new technologies, insights from City data, or new approaches to improve City operations and make City services and programs more transparent and cost effective, easier to access, and more equitable. In 2019, the Department worked on projects to restructure the City’s permitting system, implement a new scholarship program for high-quality child care, strengthen the City’s IT infrastructure, produce the City’s annual Equity Report, and many others.
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Source: Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger 1.30.2020