City launches performance metric website
How many potholes do Tampa city workers fill per month? How many miles of drainage ditches do they clean?
As a candidate for mayor in 2011, Bob Buckhorn promised to make sure Tampa residents could find answers to those questions and more.
Specifically, Buckhorn vowed to "establish accountability standards for each of the city's departments and their functions, from filling potholes to clearing storm water ditches."
"The city will know what the city's pressing problems are and how long it should take to fix them," Buckhorn's campaign website said. "The mayor and city employees will stand accountable to city residents if the timetables established for resolving these issues are not complied with. As a first step in this process, Bob Buckhorn will complete a full city-wide infrastructure assessment to identify our neighborhoods' needs and begin to address them."
On June 30, 2015, Buckhorn's administration unveiled a web site — tampagov.net/metrics — to answer those kinds of questions.
"In order for us to do our jobs better, metrics matter," Buckhorn said in a telephone interview. "What gets measured gets done."
The site provides performance measures for city services in seven areas: fire rescue, police, planning and development, water, waste water, storm water and transportation. For some services, the metrics include the city's goals, and show whether the delivery meets or falls short of the goals.
Buckhorn said the online metrics should provide more transparency in government.
"I want people to hold us accountable, and I want them to be able to measure our performance," he said.
Some city services are not included: solid waste, recycling, parks and recreation, and what the city calls neighborhood enhancement — code enforcement, efforts to maintain vacant lots and medians, plus work to reduce litter, graffiti and illegal dumping.
"Those are some critical areas that I would definitely would like to see a report on," City Council chairman Frank Reddick said. Most of the calls his council office gets, he said, are about solid waste and code enforcement. "I'm glad (Buckhorn is) trying to be transparent, but I think he needs to include other areas that have been left off."
Buckhorn said he plans to build on the initial version of the site and that more information could be added in the future. Recommended to be included in the second phase are solid waste, code enforcement and the city's fleet, Buckhorn said.
"It's a work in progress," Buckhorn said. "This was our first shot at it out of the box."
Buckhorn said the city has not done the citywide infrastructure assessment that he talked about as a candidate, but departments such as transportation, water and storm water already have amassed that kind of information and use it to guide their plans and operations.
"I haven't wrapped it up and put a big bow on it, but a lot of our departments are doing that now," he said.
When he ran for mayor in 2011, Buckhorn promised to create accountability standards so residents could track whether city departments were addressing problems confronting Tampa and could hold city officials accountable if they weren't. As a first step,he said he would launch a citywide infrastructure assessment to determine priorities to be addressed by each city department. Buckhorn's program differs from the original promise in a couple of ways. He did not do the citywide assessment he promised, and it does not — at least in its initial form — encompass every city department. Because of these differences, we rate this a Compromise.
Interview with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, June 30, 2015
Interview with Ali Glisson, city of Tampa public affairs director, June 30, 2015
Interview with Tampa City Council chairman Frank Reddick, June 30, 2015
City of Tampa news release, "City of Tampa Launches Online Performance Metrics — City services delivery data available for Tampa citizens to view," accessed June 30, 2015
City of Tampa Performance Measurement Dashboard website, accessed June 30, 2015
Zero progress on standardized infrastructure measures
It was a promise to empower residents and neighborhoods. During his campaign for mayor, Bob Buckhorn said he would establish "accountability standards” for each city department and its missions, from filling potholes to clearing drainage ditches.
The first step, he said in a written campaign platform, would be to complete a citywide assessment to identify and begin to address neighborhood needs.
Consequently, the plan said, not only would City Hall know its most pressing needs, but residents could hold the mayor and city employees accountable if they fell behind timetables that had been established to address those needs.
But as Buckhorn approached the halfway point of his four-year term, he acknowledged that there has been nothing accomplished on this promise: There is no initial assessment of city needs. No timetables have been established. There are no standards that residents can look to to hold city employees accountable.
In an interview with PolitiFact Florida on Feb. 26, 2013, Buckhorn said city departments already do something similar anyway, "but I don't know that we've compiled a massive list” of infrastructure needs.
"Each department knows what their outstanding obligations are,” he said.
Buckhorn went on to say that, contrary to his campaign promise, the idea was "not as much for the neighborhoods as it is for us internally and how we look at our budgeting and where we deploy our resources.” That way, he said, if the city has to cut funding, officials know the best places to cut. If the city gets additional revenues, it knows where to put the money to work.
Buckhorn said he still would like to follow through on this promise, but "I've got to figure out how to do it.”
Candidate Bob Buckhorn promised to create a comprehensive inventory of infrastructure needs that residents could use to hold city officials accountable. When asked about it recently, he said the idea was more to benefit city departments, which already know their responsibilities. That stands in direct contradiction to the original promise, which was about giving residents more information to hold city officials, including the mayor, accountable. And he acknowledged that nothing has been done on this promise in any case. To be useful, accountability standards would have to be created early enough in Buckhorn's term so that residents could track progress over time. That hasn't happened, and there is no identified plan to make it happen. We will revisit this issue if the city makes progress on it. As it stands, we rate this Promise Broken.
Interviews with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Feb. 26, 2013 and March 20, 2013
Standardized infrastructure measures yet to be developed
Bob Buckhorn said he would take a more systematic approach to infrastructure, creating accountability standards so the public could gauge the city's progress.
But as yet, there are no published standards. Buckhorn said in an interview with PolitiFact Florida that while he still likes the idea, the city hasn't taken steps to implement standards.
"I still would like to do it, but we've just had so much else on our plate to get done,” he said. He said that even without standards, city departments have a good handle on which projects needed to be prioritized.
Because of a lack of action on this promise, we rate it Stalled.
Interview with Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Feb. 28, 2012