Urban Data Pioneers Dedicated to Improving Government

From Tulsa’s Mayor by G. T. Bynum

SOLVING PROBLEMS: The Urban Data Pioneers meet to discuss ways to improve city government.

There’s a new group in town – the Urban Data Pioneers – and they’re dedicated to informing and improving all the ways our local government works.

Our data analysts – made up of city employees and various volunteers from organizations like Community Service Council, INCOG, Tulsa Health Department, Code for Tulsa and Growing Together – are rapidly expanding their toolbox of data visualization. They’re exploring the following areas: land-use productivity; population growth; traffic crashes; merging of datasets that grade various infrastructure around roads; and the relationship between blighted homes and violent crime, to name a few.

The Urban Data Pioneers, led by Chief of Performance Strategy and Innovation James Wagner, have identified tangible projects to benefit the city while helping members improve their data analysis skills. They gather relevant data from one department and merge it with relevant data from another department, which helps inform policy makers so they can produce better solutions for our organization and city.

A great example is in the city’s Working in Neighborhoods Department. A team in that department looked at data related to blighted properties – land that is in a dilapidated, unsafe and unsightly condition – and compared it to Tulsa Police records for locations of violent crimes. The team found strong geographic correlation between violent crime and blighted homes by matching location data from one dataset to location data from another. This generated a heat map that showed common ground between violent crimes and empty homes.

The use of analyzing data and visually showing the results is really a new way of looking at how we can address problems, such as violent crimes and abandoned homes. By understanding how these problems intersect, it enables us to develop strategies that impact more than just one outcome. Our strategies to address the issue might be a combination of approaches, such as code inspections or partnering with organizations outside City Hall to address blighted housing in the affected area. We may even train our field employees, firefighters and police officers on how to report vacant or delapidated homes – something that’s often reserved for other departments.

The Urban Data Pioneers initiative is steadily working to mine data and harness it in a way that benefits all of Tulsa. We are continuing our quest to be a national leader in the use of data in a non-partisan way to solve problems and improve on the services the city delivers.

Updated 07-24-2017

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