What Works City Feature: Fort Lauderdale, FL

Using data to celebrate success

The Opportunity
Long a destination for tourists, Fort Lauderdale has had a similarly long history of strong management. The City has clearly defined strategic priorities and goals in its plan Fast Forward Fort Lauderdale: Our City, Our Vision 2035. Mayor Jack Seiler believes the City is poised for greatness, with the economy growing again after taking a hard hit in the Great Recession. Fort Lauderdale has experienced 70 straight months of growth in its tourism industry, the marine industry is strong, and real estate is rebounding. The City has also assembled a strong team focused on fostering innovation and improving city services.

Despite its progress, the City had done little to share its successes with the community. Fort Lauderdale has been producing strong data but was not in the habit of releasing those data publicly; city leaders hadn’t fully demonstrated how that plan is a main driver of the city budget. Fort Lauderdale enlisted What Works Cities (WWC) to help the City use the data it was collecting to identify solutions to increase efficiency and improve service delivery. WWC also provided guidance on sharing the City’s data publicly to increase transparency while educating and empowering neighbors.

Our Work Together
WWC experts at the Center for Government Excellence (GovEx) at Johns Hopkins University, Results for America, and the Sunlight Foundation worked with Fort Lauderdale to leverage its open data and data governance to drive measurable progress on achieving its 2035 goals, inventorying its data, and beginning to connect them to the City’s long-term plan. They also worked to build capacity for generating data-driven solutions by developing an internal analytical team that will help the City use data to make efficient and effective resource allocations.

By partnering with What Works Cities, Fort Lauderdale is increasing transparency with community members by publicly sharing municipal data and creating a more efficient government through data-driven solutions.

Summary of Key Accomplishments
Fort Lauderdale’s work in open data and analytics lays the groundwork for the City to incorporate data and evidence in more aspects of its decision-making. WWC and the City worked together to accomplish the following:

1. Facilitate the proactive release of open data
• By formalizing Fort Lauderdale’s first Open Data regulation, city staff laid the foundation for continued work to improve the use of data across the City. Establishing the regulation will help lead to better and more consistent data use and ensure
• By taking the first steps in the process of releasing data sets related to the White House Police Data Initiative and those tied to city goals, Fort Lauderdale will be making data easier for the community and city staff to access.
• By inventorying the City’s data, Fort Lauderdale began centralizing existing data sets, allowing for better use of municipal data to analyze what’s working. Establishing the data inventory is critical to ensuring the open data program will capture key information.

2. Use data analysis to drive better outcomes
• Fort Lauderdale has a core goal to be a safe, pedestrian-friendly city for all residents. However, in a recent Neighbor Survey, residents complained about the inadequacy of street lights. The City used a new tool to create a more detailed analysis of the Neighbor Survey results and of the City’s crime and lighting data, finding that (1) the perception of public safety is positive and (2) there is no demonstrable pattern of crime as it relates to city lighting. Additional work, including an updated lighting inventory, will lead to more in-depth and detailed analysis of the correlation between lighting and safety in the city.
• By analyzing the reasons why there is an increased demand for city fire services, an interdisciplinary team of key stakeholders analyzed data to find that (1) Fire Rescue Service Calls increased between 2011 and 2015 but are leveling off, (2) emergencies are not driving the bulk of recent increases—the cause is likely EMS calls or incorrectly coded service calls, and (3) Fort Lauderdale can unlock more insights about what’s driving Rescue/EMS calls by linking multiple data sets across governmental agencies.

What’s Next
With this work, Fort Lauderdale has made strides toward using data and evidence to deliver improved results for its residents. The City should continue to build on this work by formally launching its open data portal, regularly releasing data sets of interest to the community, continuing to engage external stakeholders, identifying ways to publicize current and future initiatives around open data, and implementing the tools and techniques from its initial analytics work in other areas. These measures and the work planned for the near future will solidify Fort Lauderdale’s position as a leader in the use of data-driven solutions to enhance municipal government.