The City of Topeka Raises the Bar for Government Performance

December 19, 2016 11:00 am PST | Data as a Service

A new performance site is the latest offering in the city of Topeka’s firm commitment to transparency. Previously, the city launched a Capital Projects Explorer and financial transparency apps, including the city’s checkbook. The new Topeka Open Performance site provides an interactive view into the city’s progress with yearly goals in key areas such as public safety and infrastructure. We spoke with Leigha Boling, Performance Analyst, about how the city of Topeka’s Performance Portal will affect businesses and residents, and the big-picture expectations for the portal. 

Topeka is what works city

Socrata: Congratulations on your latest launch! What inspired this latest project, and how will it help make Topeka more business-friendly?
Leigha Boling: After direction from the governing body to continue to enhance and improve our open data efforts, leaders within the City of Topeka championed the idea of producing an interactive way to track our progress toward goals set by our budget.

The data in the performance portal will help Topeka’s business community understand trends in City services and requests, from business licenses filed with our Clerk’s Office to fire responses and crime rates.

Socrata: And what about Topeka’s residents? How will the Performance Portal affect them?
Boling: We hope the citizens of Topeka see the Performance portal as a way to track how effectively we use their taxpayer dollars. We also hope it helps educate Topeka citizens about the City’s services and accomplishments throughout the year and contributes to the trust we receive from our residents. Being able to see how we are performing, not just the numbers behind it, will go a long way toward engaging Topeka residents in a way we haven’t seen yet.

Socrata: What’s the most surprising dataset you found while working on this project?
Boling: We hear reports about the potholes throughout the City all the time. But it blew me away that the City lays nearly 3,000 tons of asphalt each year, repairing those potholes and other cracks in our streets. We still have several metrics we are working through to post later, so I’m excited to see what other tidbits of information the City has to share with our residents.

Socrata: What internal processes will this program streamline?
Boling: Just working on this performance portal helped us realize we needed improve how we track, record, and share our accomplishments. I also see this portal as helping us tie our financial decisions to our performance measures, for better fiscal responsibility and, ultimately, trust in what we do.

Socrata: How do you hope your program influences other neighboring governments?
Boling: We hope our neighbors see the benefits from tracking data and sharing it with residents. We have learned a lot through the process of developing this portal, and hope we can share our insights with other governments looking to expand their open data efforts. With an engaged and informed citizenry, municipalities can truly meet the needs of those we serve.

Socrata: How does this data program interact with the other systems and programs of your government?
Boling: Very well, considering we’ve already launched three Socrata portals: Budget, Checkbook, and Projects. We also hope to tie it into the work order application we are launching next year, through which residents can report issues they would like fixed, such as potholes, as mentioned earlier.

Socrata: What advice do you have for other governments considering rolling out a program like yours?
Boling: In the beginning, make an outline of the whole program, from beginning to end — knowing where you’re going before you start will prevent you from missing things along the way. Then, engage your leaders and staff to analyze all aspects and angles of the program, so everyone has buy-in and input. Finally, seek help from other agencies. What Works Cities was a major driver toward getting us on this track.

Want to learn how Topeka convinced powerful stakeholders to support the launch of Open Budget? Find out the city’s powerful strategy.

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