Baltimore City leaders on Thursday launched a new digital dashboard where residents can view city government spending in real time.
Called Open Checkbook, the civic data tool was a promise of Mayor Brandon Scott’s first 100 days in office. It’s part of an effort to increase transparency in city government and modernize city agencies. At Morgan State University on Thursday morning, Scott, Comptroller Bill Henry and Baltimore City Chief Data Officer Justin Elszasz showcased the new dashboard.
“Building trust demands that we devote ourselves to being responsible stewards of city resources,” Scott said at the press conference launching the dashboard. “With this tool, residents can experience Baltimore’s city budget in action.”
The tool allows residents to explore spending by city agencies and vendors from this city budget year, or July 2019, until the present.
— Baltimore's Chief Data Officer (@baltdata) April 15, 2021
“Today we’re launching a process,” said Henry, who has been adamant about modernizing city fiscal functions. “A process to be more transparent about city finances.”
Elszasz noted the administration’s bent towards data governance and transparency is reassuring to the city government data community, which is one that has tended to see a lot of turnover at the top.
“I think everyone is really empowered to see leadership that’s really bought into the use of data to make good decisions and for transparency,” said Elszasz.
The launch comes as local governments are embracing tools that organize and visualize data for public-facing means. Late in 2020, the adjacent Baltimore County launched a similar tool to track spending.
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.-30-