NOLA, San Fran work to increase transparency

New Orleans and San Francisco are looking at ways to increase transparency. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, announced yesterday that the city will be implementing two new measures BottomLineStat and ReqtoCheckStat designed to increase budget transparency and improve the efficiency of the city’s contracting system. San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu also announced yesterday that he is putting forward a measure that would put the city budget online for the public and public officials.

Since taking office, Mayor Mitch Landrieu has implemented several programs designed to increase the transparency and efficiency of city government in New Orleans. BlightStat and PerformanceStat are two examples of programs similar to BottomLineStat and ReqtoCheckStat that focus on specific government functions like managing blight, and try to improve them. BottomLineStat will require city departments to eliminate “unnecessary expenses,” and streamline processes. The Mayor didn’t illustrate what he views as unnecessary expenses in his announcement, but it is expected that these guidelines will be created at the first BottomLineStat meeting his week.

ReqtoCheckStat will take an in-depth look at how the city manages its contracting process for services such as trash pick up and look for ways to increase efficiency and transparency. Along with these performance measurement groups the city also launched which will provide municipal data to the public. The site went live with a limited number of data sets in a soft launch on August 20, 2011.

San Francisco is taking a slightly different approach to transparency. Rather than performance task forces, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu is proposing putting the entire $6.8 billion municipal budget online in a searchable format available to the public and public officials. According to Chiu, the city budget process is so unwieldy that often public officials are even unclear on where money is being spent.

San Francisco is facing a significant budget crisis that is expected to last for years to come. The city’s public pension system is in a shambles, causing the city to use money from its general funds to cover the cost of its pension contributions. Two items designed to deal with the pension crisis will be up for public referendum in November, a situation which seems to be creating a positive climate for Chiu’s initiative as the residents grow increasingly more unhappy with the city’s financial situation.