State & Local Politics

Bipartisanship doesn’t have to be boring

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In an era of gridlock and hyper-partisanship — when avoiding a federal government shutdown is cause for celebration — it’s easy to be pessimistic about government’s ability to change people’s lives for the better.
Count us among the optimists. As a Democrat who served two terms as Mayor of Philadelphia and a Republican who served as White House Domestic Policy Director under President George W. Bush, we know that progress is possible. We see it happening all around us.
{mosads}While Washington lurches from one manufactured crisis to the next, committed public servants in red states and blue states — from the coasts to the heartland — are quietly transforming the way government works with a relentless focus on data, evidence and results. 
In Las Vegas, the city identified the 50 most dangerous intersections for left-turn accidents and targeted them for safety improvements, reducing these crashes by 61 percent.
Cities like New Orleans and Chattanooga, which are seeking to diversify their police forces, are using behavioral science to test different recruiting messages.
In Chattanooga, the most effective messages tripled the response from minority applicants.
In Buffalo, New York, the city is using data from 911 and 311 calls, along with census and unemployment data, to fight blight in Buffalo’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods. 
From City Hall to the White House, we both have witnessed the power of evidence to deliver big results. 
When one of us became mayor of Philadelphia a decade ago, 65 percent of the city’s homicides were being committed in just 9 of 23 police precincts. By redeploying officers and better targeting resources, the city reduced homicides by 30 percent over eight years. 
When the other one of us led the White House Domestic Policy Council, few federal programs were being regularly evaluated. So President Bush deployed a powerful diagnostic tool — the Program Assessment Rating Tool — to analyze the results of every program and help guide budget decisions.
In one of Washington’s greatest untold bipartisan success stories, President Obama built on this work by expanding funding for evaluations in several agencies and developing new programs that tied funding levels to the evidence of success.
Now it’s time to set the bar even higher — to challenge leaders of both parties to push the envelope of data-driven reforms — so we can achieve even more.
We saw this bipartisan spirit of innovation on display in New York City in late March at the second annual What Works Cities Summit, which drew more than 350 local leaders. Mayors joined policy experts for panels and discussions on how to use data to improve police-community relations, tackle homelessness, and increase inclusivity in how cities serve their residents.
The boldest idea at the summit: a new certification program that will challenge local leaders across the country to enhance their work with data. The highest performing cities will be recognized for their efforts and their leaders will receive the highest compliment of all — their ideas will be imitated by their peers.
We are already seeing local leaders building on the success of other cities. Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, for example, knew that New Orleans had pioneered a data model to reduce blight — it inspired her to launch her own innovative program to target at-risk properties in the city for distribution of free smoke detectors. 
At the federal level, champions of investing in what works have their own standard of excellence — the Federal Invest in What Works Index.
The index, developed by Results for America with input from more than 75 current and former federal government officials and other key stakeholders, is helping encourage federal agencies to build the infrastructure necessary to use data and evidence when making budget, policy and management decisions.

In 2016, the seven agencies included in the index were, on average, nearly 80 percent of the way toward meeting its goals. For example, the U.S. Department of Education and bipartisan leaders in Congress made several federal education programs more results-driven by prioritizing evidence-based activities, some of which were included in the Every Student Succeeds Act.
These provisions could help states and school districts shift up to $2 billion per year toward evidence-based solutions over the next five years. The Corporation for National and Community Service now allocates up to 12 points out of 100 to grant applicants seeking AmeriCorps funding based on their evidence of effectiveness.
Just as LEED certification has galvanized the construction industry and accelerated the use of energy-efficient technologies, these new standards of excellence in governance offer a roadmap for how to make these reforms. They create a friendly competition among mayors and leaders of federal agencies over who can be the most innovative. At a time when much of our policymaking seems rudderless, they offer a “North Star” to guide policymakers in how to maximize the impact of taxpayer dollars and improve services for the public. 
It is not a Republican or a Democratic idea that our leaders should be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money — or that government programs should deliver the best results for children, families and communities. These are values shared by every American. 
Voters on the right and left want their government to work and their leaders to be accountable. At a time when so many have lost faith in government’s ability to tackle big challenges, let’s set the bar higher and show them we are worthy of their trust.
Michael Nutter, a Democrat, served as Mayor of Philadelphia from 2008 to 2016, and is now a senior adviser to Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities initiative. John Bridgeland, a Republican, served as White House Domestic Policy Director under President George W. Bush, and is now a Senior Fellow at Results for America and Co-CEO of Civic Enterprises, a social enterprise firm in Washington, D.C. 

The views of contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

Tags Bipartisanship Data Government local New York state

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