When Anthony Hardy Williams — we call him Tony — announced last fall he would run to become the next mayor, he emphasized that Philadelphia needs to change the way it does business. As mayor, he plans to bring a citizen-centered orientation to City Hall and will make our city the nation’s leader in municipal innovation and open data.
With a CEO mentality, and an entrepreneurial spirit, Tony will lead a government committed to using a data- and evidence-based approach to inform policy decisions, use taxpayer dollars wisely, attract investment and create economic growth. A citizen-centered government means proactively engaging Philadelphians in the hard work of governance. No longer can we simply do more with less. Now is the time to govern differently.
[Editor’s note: These issues and others will be the focus of our Philly Tech Week Mayoral Forum April 20. RSVP for the forum and check out the responses to our mayoral questionnaire here.]
As mayor, Tony will initially focus on four key areas to leverage city data:
1. Fully implement the Open Data Strategic Plan to drive culture change in agencies
Too often, program design and policy development take place without consideration for the citizen. For example, there are dozens of residential programs, and federal, state and local benefits that Philadelphians do not claim because they are not aware of them.
As mayor, Tony will work with the Chief Data Officer to fully implement the Open Data Strategic Plan, and direct agencies to improve how they communicate with citizens. One idea he supports is modeled on Single Stop’s Benefits Enrollment Network. Leveraging the BenePhilly centers across the city, he will work to ensure that every Philadelphian can access the programs and services they are eligible for.
2. Use open data to create a hub for civic innovation and social entrepreneurship
City government should create a public data inventory, and as mayor Tony will reauthorize the Office of New Urban Mechanics and formally partner with Philadelphia’s great civic innovators and social entrepreneurs to strategically address societal challenges locally and globally. This approach can also provide training in our public schools, and local colleges and universities that will empower citizens to create solutions to problems city government could not tackle alone.
If city government can support an ecosystem that allows civic innovation to thrive, it will attract investment, unlock economic growth across the city, and fundamentally reshape the relationship between citizens and their government through direct engagement and input.
3. Use open data to develop an evidence-based approach to municipal services
Simply put, the City of Philadelphia has limited funds to invest in its most pressing priorities. Evaluating the effectiveness of city government programs and services should be a basic rule of municipal management.
City government has an obligation to invest in and expand policies and programs that are proven to work, and re-direct funding away from policies and programs that do not. As mayor, Tony will expand city agencies’ capacity for program evaluation, similar to the Philadelphia Police Department data scientists initiative, and build a data-driven culture focused on delivering a better quality of life for all Philadelphians.
4. Use open data to reinforce ethics and integrity in city government
Transparency bridges the gap between effective open data practices and our commitments to an ethical government. As mayor, Tony will ensure that all agencies adhere to robust reporting practices. Management of services and resources should be tracked in real time, so Tony will roll out new digital tools that meet those challenges. This will necessitate continued and significant capital investments to upgrade city government’s technological capabilities.
The next mayor must be positioned to lead a multibillion-dollar enterprise with over 20,000 employees. With a citizen-centered and data-driven approach to governance, Tony will change how Philadelphia does business.
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