Gotham Gazette Wed, 26 Sep 2018 15:06:46 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) Renewed Push for 'Performance Budgeting' Through Mayor's Management Report 24722286022 fc206fafab z

Council Member Ben Kallos (Photo: William Alatriste/New York City Council)

A critical study by a fiscal watchdog on the city’s annual performance report has led to renewed calls for city agencies to base their budgets on the efficiency of services.

The Citizens Budget Commission, an independent nonprofit, released an analysis earlier this month of the Mayor’s Management Report (MMR), a detailed survey of city agencies and their functioning which the Mayor's Office of Operations puts out twice a year. The preliminary version of the report, the PMMR, covering the first four months of the 2017 fiscal year, was released last Monday and will be followed by the full MMR in September.

The MMR contains performance evaluations of 44 city agencies, helping the city improve the efficiency and delivery of services and helping the public keep the administration accountable. Elected officials rely on the reports to conduct oversight of agencies, citing them in annual budget hearings.

CBC’s report notes, however, that while the MMR has thousands of indicators related to the “volume or quality” of services, there is little examination of efficiency through unit-cost measures, which gauge the city’s spending on each unit of service. “Unit cost indicators enhance accountability, inform operational changes, and highlight ways to increase efficiency,” the report reads.

The city’s already limited use of unit cost indicators has declined, according to the CBC’s analysis, and in last year’s MMR for fiscal year 2016, only 10 agencies reported a total of 35 unit cost indicators out of more than 2,000 metrics tracked by the city. These include, for instance, the cost to the Fire Department per ambulance tour per day, which grew from $1,799 in fiscal year 2012 to $1,937 in 2016, a 7.7 percent increase. In the same period, the average cost for the Department of Citywide Services to train a city employee fell 56 percent from $253 to $112. The report points out that the city can easily create more such unit cost indicators with current data and recommends steps to implement those measures across city agencies, including aligning units of appropriation with specific services and linking service quality with cost and efficiency.

“While the MMR provides thousands of indicators, the report is short on indicators that assess the efficiency of city government operations,” said Ana Champeny, director of city studies, CBC, in an email. “The City should develop more unit-cost measures that could support agencies in making their operations more cost-efficient.”

Elected officials and good government advocates have long been pushing for an improved MMR, calling for increasing the number of indicators and clarifying how agencies measure their performance. Last year, at an April oversight hearing on the MMR held by the City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations, many of those concerns were raised, including the need to link agency funding with performance.

Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the governmental operations committee, has been pushing the city to do better for years and, at his request, the latest reports now show spending information by general categories of appropriation. But, he points out, the report still fails to connect budgeting with agency goals, despite being mandated by the city charter. “The MMR should be treated as an investment document,” Kallos said in a phone interview, “and spending should be tied to specific programmatic performance goals so New York City residents know how their tax dollars are being spent and can advocate for them to be increased or decreased.”

He noted, for instance, that the PMMR shows more homeless families and individuals entering the system than in previous years, as reflective of the city’s homelessness crisis. At the same time, it also shows fewer adults exiting permanent supportive housing than before. “If we have performance budgeting, the mayor would have to say he’s spending certain amounts of money to improve that number,” Kallos said. “We would be able to tie the amount of spending to that number and we’d be able to understand what the barrier is and possibly solve it with more funding.”

Government reform groups have argued that the city has improved the MMR but has been slow to institute certain common sense changes that have been recommended for years. “[The MMR] was a huge leap forward when it was first introduced forty years ago,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, and co-chair and founder of the New York City Transparency Working Group. “It is basically obsolete. It needs to evolve so the public, the City Council and the mayor himself can tell how city agencies are doing.”

Pushing for a more comprehensive MMR, Kaehny said, would be consistent with the city’s reputation as a national leader in areas of open governance and transparency. He also believes that the charter’s mandate, to make MMR goals linked to the budget, is more realistic now than it has ever been, with the ubiquity of data and the means to compute it in the digital age. “This is a logical evolution of the MMR,” he said, although pointing out that city agencies and public sector unions may be wary of such scrutiny. “This would really put them under a microscope, it would show trends citywide and show how efficient the city can provide services over private entities.”

Mindy Tarlow, director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations, said in a statement to Gotham Gazette that the city’s public reporting of data on delivery of services has been more comprehensive and transparent “than any other major urban jurisdiction in the country” for the last forty years. “We continue to work closely with our colleagues at the Office of Management and Budget to further align performance and spending,” she said.

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

With reporting by Ben Max.

Renewed Push for 'Performance Budgeting' Through Mayor's Management Report Mon, 13 Feb 2017 00:00:00 +0000
Highlights from the New Mayor's Management Report de blasio zoning speech

Mayor de Blasio (photo: Michael Appleton, Mayor's Office)

On Monday, The Mayor’s Office of Operations released the Mayor’s Management Report for Fiscal Year 2016, which ran from July 1 2015 to June 30 2016. For nearly 40 years, the MMR has been a report card of sorts for city agencies that the public and City Council can use to assess city performance in delivering services to New Yorkers. It now includes over 2,000 reported data points, giving indication of progress, or regress, against certain goals and past performance.

When Mayor Bill de Blasio, now in his third year in office, took power, he adjusted the MMR by asking that his commissioners include more information about how their agencies are fighting to reduce inequality in the city. The directive aligns with the focus of de Blasio’s mayoral campaign and a key animating theme of his tenure.

“The MMR embodies our commitment to transparency and accountability and it is one of the ways we use data to improve City services for all New Yorkers,” said de Blasio, in an open letter attached to the MMR. “I’ve often talked about the inequities in our society as a Tale of Two Cities,” the mayor’s letter continues. “With the MMR, you will get a detailed look at how City government is tackling these inequalities and creating a New York that is inclusive and fairer for all.”

The MMR is broken into seven categories with individual sections laid out for 44 city government agencies, and an additional category, “Collaborating to Deliver Results,” specifically for looking at cross-agency initiatives like Vision Zero, Young Men’s Initiative, Career Pathways, Housing New York, and ThriveNYC.

Otherwise, the MMR divides the 44 agencies into relative groups: Public Safety and Access to Justice, Basic Services for All New Yorkers, Health and Human Services, Building Human Potential, Infrastructure and Sustainability, Promoting Viable Communities and Neighborhoods, and Administrative Services. Key metrics are provided for each of the agency sections and the collaborative initiatives.

A press release from the Mayor’s Office announcing the release of the MMR gives a snapshot of how the city did in FY16: “In fiscal year 2016, 59% of indicators show improved or stable performance, compared to 57% in fiscal year 2015 and 56% in fiscal year 2014. For critical indicators, which are key measures of agency performance, 56% show improved or stable performance in fiscal year 2016, compared to 56% in fiscal year 2015 and 55% in fiscal year 2014.”

The MMR includes data on traffic accidents, crime stats, graduation rates, water main breaks, Citibike users, emergency response times, and much more.

Below, find Gotham Gazette-selected highlights of the MMR, with several indicators of stability or improvement for New Yorkers and several examples of regression or areas of concern. Most references to increase or decrease are in terms of fiscal year 2016 compared to fiscal year 2015.


Reductions in Some Violent Crimes
Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter deceased by 2 percent, from 348 in FY15 to 341 in FY16. Additionally, murders related to domestic violence decreased from 61 to 53, or 13.1 percent. While these crime drops are noted in the MMR press release, it fails to paint the whole picture of violent crimes in the city (see “Rise in Major Felony Crimes”).

Fewer Bosses Denying Paid Sick Leave
After initially focusing on educating business owners about complying with new laws requiring five paid sick days be provided by all New York City employers with at least five workers, officials began enforcing the requirement more fully in fiscal 2016. Initially under the new law, the City was receiving more complaints against employers denying paid sick leave, but those have decreased as employers became more aware of the new laws and adjusted their budgets accordingly. That said, the City began fully enforcing the new law across the board after issuing early warnings and focusing exclusively on the bad apples who were not responding to the educational campaign.

Thus, 13,675 employees took in $2.1 million in restitution during FY16, compared to only 97 workers who received $54,961 in the previous fiscal year. The number of complaints against bosses denying required paid sick leave dropping from 583 in FY15 to 335 in FY16, according to the New York Daily News.

More New Yorkers Are Recycling
The Department of Sanitation improved its residential recycling diversion rate to 16.9 percent in FY16, up nearly 1 percent from FY15. The volume of refuse disposed slightly increased as well, suggesting New Yorkers were disposing of more overall waste in FY16. As Politico New York points out, this improvement still falls short of the city’s goal of 19 percent for the fiscal year. By comparison, cities along the West Coast are seeing residential recycling diversion rates upwards of 70 and 80 percent (graph below via Citizens Budget Commission).

Tons of Refuse Disposed of Annually and Recycling Diversion Rate

More Ferry Passengers
Ridership on the Staten Island Ferry grew from 2.19 million to 2.31 million, an increase of 5.3 percent from FY15 to FY16. According to Mass Transit, this is a record breaking number of passengers, with roughly 1 million more than there were when the previous record was set in 2012. The mayor attributes the rise in ridership to a strengthening economy and the implementation of ferry service every 30 minutes all day every day that started last fall. Average monthly ridership on the East River ferry increased even more drastically from 113,366 in FY15 to 131,896 in FY16, a 16.3 percent change.

Fewer Traffic Fatalities
The City launched Vision Zero in January 2014, when de Blasio took office, with the goal of cutting New York City traffic fatalities in half by 2025. Two years later, the Mayor’s office announced that 2015 was the safest year ever on New York City streets since the City began keeping records in 1910. In fiscal year 2016, the city moved another step closer to the Vision Zero goal for traffic fatalities, which decreased by 5.2 percent from 249 in FY15 to 236 in FY16. Passengers saw the greatest decrease in fatalities, down 24.2 percent from 33 to 25 this year. Though the same cannot be said for every category, as bicyclists and motor vehicle operators saw an increase in fatalities this past fiscal year (see “Roads are Less Safe for Cyclists and Motor Vehicle Operators” below).

Fewer Unsheltered Homeless as More Supportive Housing is Made Available
The most visible homeless population is those who live unsheltered on the city’s streets, even though they make up a small fraction of the total homeless population in New York City. Compared to the majority of the city’s homeless population, serious mental illnesses are far more common among people who live on the street. With the help of volunteers and nonprofits who work with the homeless population, the City conducts an annual census of people counted as homeless and living unsheltered on the city’s streets each winter. In fiscal 2016, the number of unsheltered homeless persons declined from 3,182 the previous year to 2,794, a 12.2 percent change.

At least part of this decline can be attributed to new units of supportive housing made available to people with serious mental illnesses, which increased 5.3 percent in FY16. Gotham Gazette has written extensively about City and State supportive housing initiatives, which include social services for people with mental illness, substance abuse problems, and other impediments beyond housing insecurity, and are seen as a cost effective solution. The flip side of these services and a result of the ballooning homeless population in general is the mounting cost of services for the city’s homeless people (see “The City is Spending More on the Homeless as Shelter Populations Swell” below).

Tenants Found More Affordable Apartments and Landlords on Notice
Under Housing New York, the City is targeting the affordable housing crisis that plagues many rent burdened residents across the five boroughs -- renters who are spending more than one-third of their income on housing. In FY16, the number of affordable units completed increased dramatically from 2,079 in FY15 to 10,292 -- a 395 percent increase. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development surpassed its goals for starting and completing units in fiscal 2016, increasing its completions by 82 percent and the number of starts by 15 percent compared to the previous fiscal year, according to the Citizens Budget Commission.

Furthermore, the number of applicants placed in housing through federal Section 8 vouchers increased from 892 in FY15 to 1,706 in fiscal 2016. This all comes as fewer landlords are cutting off tenants’ heat and hot water -- a tactic commonly used by landlords to force rent-stabilized tenants out of the building so they can renovate the units and increase the rent market rates. Heat and hot water complaints received by the City decreased 10.3 percent, from 122,612 in fiscal 2015 to 109,950 in fiscal 2016. The city also provided many more lawyers to tenants for housing court eviction proceedings.

Fewer Families Returning to Shelters from Permanent Housing
The homelessness crisis facing New York City has antecedents in the collapse of rental subsidies during the Bloomberg administration. As a result, millions of tax dollars were spent when thousands of New Yorkers were forced back into the shelter system after their subsidies abruptly ran dry. With Section 8 vouchers and other rental subsidies programs back online and growing, fewer families are returning to shelters after living in permanent housing.

The percentage of households and people who returned to the shelters within one year after leaving to live in permanent housing decreased in fiscal 2016 by 6.5 percent for families with children and by 5.5 percent for adult families. Single adults saw minimal change. This comes as more people are in need of emergency grants to prevent eviction. In fiscal 2016, there were 82,306 households who sought out one-time emergency grants to prevent eviction, which is up 26 percent from 65,138 requests in the previous year, according to the New York Post.

911 Response Times Largely Decrease
NYPD’s end-to-end average response time for all crimes in progress decreased by 23 seconds; 20 seconds were shaved off in response to critical crimes in progress, while average response times for serious crimes in progress decreased by 14 seconds. City officials say the decrease in response times are a result of new smartphones and tablets distributed to uniformed officers, according to Politico New York. At the same time NYPD is responding more swiftly to critical and serious crimes, they’ve added over a minute of time in response to non-critical crimes in progress.

Comparatively, the Fire Department maintained or slightly improved its average response time to life-threatening medical emergencies and structural fires as the number of medical emergencies NYFD responded to increased by 8 percent in fiscal 2016, according to the Citizen Budget Commission.


Rise in Major Felony Crimes
While New York City had a decrease in murder and nonnegligent manslaughter in fiscal 2016, major felony crimes including rape, robbery, and serious assaults increased, especially in public housing developments and the subway system. In FY16 there were 1,742 more major felony crimes committed than in FY15, a 1.7 percent increase, according to the Citizen Budget Commission (see CBC graph below).

Number of Major Felony Crimes

The New York Daily News reports a 10 percent increase in major felony crimes committed within the transit system, according to the MMR, while Politico New York found major felony crimes at NYCHA developments increased 7 percent in FY16; from 4,858 the previous fiscal year to 5,205 in fiscal 2016. This comes as the average number of hours it takes to resolve emergency service requests in public housing is on the decline from 15 hours in FY15 to 13 hours in FY16, according to the Citizen Budget Commission.

Jails are Less Safe for Inmates
As the Mayor’s MMR press release highlights decreases in total inmate assaults on correctional staff (down 8.5 percent) and for serious injury to staff resulting from such inmate-on-staff assaults (down 42.9 percent), it fails to mention that Rikers Island and other city correctional facilities are less safe for inmates. As the Citizens Budget Commission points out, the number of incidents of inmate-on-inmate violence increased 26.5 percent to reach 47.8 incidents per month per 1,000 average daily inmates. Compared to the previous fiscal year, FY16 saw a 19.3 percent increase in fights between inmates and a 21.3 percent rise in stabbings and slashing, despite a 4 percent decrease of the daily average inmate population, according to Politico New York.

The City is Spending More on the Homeless as Shelter Populations Swell
All three of New York City’s shelter populations grew in fiscal 2016. According to Citizen Budget Commission, the average number of families with children living in shelters grew 2.3 percent, the adult family population in shelters increased nearly 5 percent and the single adult population in shelters grew 12.3 percent.

This comes as the New York Daily News points out that the average daily cost of housing an adult homeless person in the city’s shelter system increased from $78.80 in fiscal 2015 to $94.57 in fiscal 2016. The cost of families increased from $105.37 per day to $120.22 according to the MMR. Furthermore, the average length of stay in the shelter system increased to 563 days for adult families, 29 more days than the previous year’s average. The average length of stay for single adults increased to 355 days, according to Politico New York, reflecting a need for more supportive housing.

According to the MMR, the increased costs for homeless services were due to a list of improvements to shelter services including “increased security costs; new costs for enhancements, including mental health services and activities in adult shelters; cost of living adjustments for contract providers; utilization of emergency commercial hotels; and the opening of new shelters, which generally have higher rent and fixed costs than do older, established facilities.”

More New Yorkers Die of Drug Overdose
In fiscal 2015, 753 people died from drug overdoses. That number increased to 939 during fiscal 2016, a 24.7 percent increase. Politico New York reports that the increase is connected to more use of opioids like heroin and fentanyl, which is said to be even more potent.

Roads are Less Safe for Cyclists and Motor Vehicle Operators
While the City celebrates another year of decreases in overall traffic fatalities, there were increases in fatalities for cyclists and motor vehicle operators. There were 20 cyclists who died in fiscal 2016, up from 16 deaths in fiscal 2015. Gothamist has written a report looking into this problem. Driver fatalities resulting from traffic accidents increased from 29 in FY15 to 34 in FY16.

Fewer Patients Used NYC Health + Hospital Services
While enrollment in MetroPlus health insurance offered by New York City Health + Hospital increased 6 percent in fiscal 2016 to over 500,000 patients, the number of unique patients that the system served declined for another consecutive year, according to Citizens Budget Commission. There were just over 1.17 million patients served in FY15, while the number fell to under 1.17 million in FY16.

Employment for People with Cash Assistance Not Rising as Fast as the Caseload
Under the Temporary Aid to Needy Families Program (TANF), Eligible families may receive up to 60 months of federally funded cash assistance. Those enrolled in the program must engage in occupational or educational activities to continue receiving funding. The program is suppose to move people from poverty and unemployment and into a full time job. From fiscal 2015 to 2016, the City’s caseload for people who receive cash assistance grew from 360 to 370, a 2.6 percent increase, according to Citizens Budget Commission. During the same period, the number of cash assistance recipients placed in employment stayed the same at 47 people, showing little to no improvement in helping these people land a job.


NYC Students Doing Better and Graduating at Higher Rates
The four-year graduation rate in School Year 2015 rose two percentage points to 70.5%; English results on grade 3-8 state tests increased in each of the City’s 32 Community School Districts across all five boroughs; students in grades 3 to 8 meeting/exceeding standards in Math increased 1.2 percentage points (from 35.2% to 36.4%) and meeting/exceeding standards in English increased 7.6 percentage points (from 30.4% to 38%); parents attending parent-teacher conferences increased 3.8% (from 1,910,000 to 1,983,000).

Most Resurfaced Roads in 25 Years
Lane miles resurfaced citywide, in-house plus contracted, was 1,281 – the largest number of lane miles resurfaced citywide in more than 25 years

More CitiBike Trips
CitiBike trips increased 39.6%, from 8.8 million in FY15 to 12.2 million in FY16.

Select Bus Service Ridership Drastically Rises
Annual Select Bus Service ridership increased 27.8%, from 45.2 million in FY15 to 57.8 million in FY16.

More New Yorkers Using Rec Centers
Total recreation center attendance increased 25.0%, from 3.4 million in FY15 to 4.3 million in FY16.

Fewer Reports of Neglect and Abuse for Children in Child Care
Substantiated abuse and/or neglect reports for children in child care decreased 12.5%, from 27.6% in FY15 to 15.1% in FY16.

Fewer Inmate Assaults on Corrections Staff
Serious injury to staff as a result of inmate assault on staff decreased by 42.9%. Total inmate assault on staff decreased by 8.5%.

Fewer Water Main Breaks
Water main breaks decreased 29.8%, from 563 in FY15 to 395 in FY16.

Improved Taxi Services for People with Disabilities
Active medallion taxis that are accessible increased 53.1% (from 572 to 876); Active Boro Taxis that are accessible increased 12.3% (from 1,240 to 1,393).

Cleaner Streets
Streets rated acceptably clean increased 2.3 percentage points, from 92.7% in FY15 to 95.0% in FY16.

More Timely Services for Food Insecure Families
SNAP application timeliness rate increased 12.5 percentage points (from 81.4% to 93.9%); cash assistance application timeliness rate increased 3.1 percentage points (from 94.4% to 97.5%).

Less Wait Time For Information
Wait time for 311 calls decreased 7 seconds, from 23 seconds in FY15 to 16 seconds in FY16

More New Yorkers with City ID
IDNYC cards issued increased 62.5%, from 334,794 in FY15 to 544,083 in FY16.

by William Fowler for Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Highlights from the New Mayor's Management Report Thu, 22 Sep 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Push for a Better Mayor's Management Report Continues 311-cust-serv 

The City Council’s Committee on Governmental Operations held an oversight hearing on Wednesday to evaluate the structure and content of two annual city reports that measure everything from the wait times on 311 calls and the conditions of city parks to the number of unsheltered homeless people and traffic crashes in the city each year. These key performance indicators help the City Council and the public keep city agencies and offices accountable. Those agencies, in turn, rely on these reports to improve their policies and functioning.

The administration releases two detailed reports each year - the Preliminary Mayor’s Management Report (PMMR), two weeks after the January financial plan, and the Mayor’s Management Report (MMR), in September. The reports include evaluations of annual goals set by 41 city agencies and 3 non-mayoral agencies that report directly to the Mayor, and whether these agencies are succeeding or failing to meet their objectives.

Wednesday’s hearing, the third one held by the governmental operations committee on this issue, gave Council members an opportunity to delve into the process of how agency goals are included in the reports and to reiterate their request for adding more data to future reports. Council Member Ben Kallos, chair of the committee, highlighted some of the key concerns the Council has about a lack of clarity in certain agency goals, agency indicators with no set targets, and the need to directly link agency performance with corresponding budget allocations.

The PMMR and MMR are produced over six to eight weeks by the Mayor’s Office of Operations (MOO). About 10 MOO staff members work with more than 150 senior staff across the agencies, including deputy mayors and agency commissioners, and coordinate efforts with City Hall to release the final products, which detail agency goals and indicators of whether those goals are being met year after year.

There are 1649 metrics by which agency performance is tracked in the two reports. Examples include quality-of-life summonses issued by the New York Police Department, the number of people on the city’s cash assistance rolls, the average daily attendance in city schools, and the number of families entering the city’s homeless shelter system.

The report tracked the NYPD’s goal to reduce the number of quality-of-life violations, a critical indicator without a set target. The four-month numbers (the timeframe for the PMMR) fell from 142,434 in Fiscal 2015 to 125, 685 in Fiscal 2016.

Under the Department of Education’s performance, the report looked at average daily attendance in city schools, which surpassed the 91.7 percent target in Fiscal 2016 (93.2 percent) and Fiscal 2015 (93.5 percent). Similarly, the report showed that the Department of Homeless Services had been successful in reducing the number of adult families entering the shelter system from 521 families to 466.

The data, which is available on an interactive website, includes comparisons with previous years, five-year trends and a look at desired directions for performance. This year’s PMMR data was also available on the city’s Open Data Portal, providing public access to all the information collected under the report. Kallos, an ardent supporter of transparent and accessible information and technology, praised MOO for this effort.

“We really take care not to take a one-size-fits-all approach to targets and indicators in the PMMR and MMR,” said Mindy Tarlow, MOO director, at one point during Wednesday’s hearing. “We try to see each indicator and each agency as a complex diverse case that’s in some ways reflective of the complex diverse city that we’re monitoring and reporting on.”

City Council members took turns questioning Tarlow and her colleague Tina Chiu, deputy director for performance management. The members usually stuck with issues germane to issue committees they chair or sit on, but the larger concerns voiced at the hearing were about the lack of targets for many critical performance indicators and the ways in which targets are set and the reports are improved.

Council Member Ben Kallos, who chairs the government operations committee, commended MOO for changes they had made to the PMMR based on recommendations from a December 2015 hearing about how targets were defined in the reports. This year’s PMMR included a more nuanced description of targets, which can be numeric or directional. Numeric targets set expected performance levels including a maximum that should not be exceeded or a minimum level that should be met. Directional targets indicate whether an indicator should go up or down. Many indicators had no target at all, which gave cause for concern to Kallos and Dick Dadey, executive director of government reform group Citizens Union, who testified at the hearing.

When Kallos asked why certain indicators had no targets, citing the number of lawsuits brought against the city as an example, Tarlow clarified that many of these indicators are “neutral” statistics out of their control, such as certain population numbers, for which it’s impossible to set directional targets.

“Although the committee is pleased that some improvements have been made,” Kallos said in his opening statement, “our review of the most recent PMMR suggests that further changes could make both of these publications more helpful tools for the Council, the public, as well as  the agencies.”

The City Council, in its Monday response to the mayor’s preliminary budget for fiscal year 2017, identified 57 indicators across 18 agencies that they want included in the MMR going forward. Kallos brought this up at the hearing, specifically pointing to indicators for the Board of Standards and Appeals, which falls under the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which is under Kallos’ committee’s oversight. He also mentioned a City Council data study that found 107 indicators (70 critical ones) where there was a 28 percent discrepancy over last year’s PMMR and average performance over the prior three years.

kallos rules hearingKallos (pictured*) also questioned Tarlow and Chiu about indicators relating to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the 311 helpline system and the Department of Homeless Services, but his main concerns were about holding people accountable for changes to the PMMR and MMR, further clarifying how targets are defined, minimizing the number of indicators without targets, and linking performance indicators in the PMMR to the corresponding allocations in the preliminary budget, as the City Charter mandates for the PMMR.

“Who has ultimate responsibility for the changes that are being implemented?” Kallos asked Tarlow, frustrated that Council members’ requests for additional indicators in the past had been routinely agreed to by agencies but not followed through on. “Is it with the agency or Operations, and how do those changes actually end up happening?

Tarlow stressed that the creation and addition of indicators was a collaborative process with agencies. “We don’t dictate play to the agencies and the agencies don’t just unilaterally make changes,” she said, agreeing to consider improvements in communication with Council members. She also said that they had started to work with the Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget to cross-reference and link the PMMR with the preliminary budget.

Kallos’ concerns were echoed by Dadey, who reiterated recommendations that Citizens Union had made in the past, which shows, he said, “a challenge that we face that we’ve been back here several times making the same recommendations and while some of them get adopted we think that some of the more common sense ones are not being embraced and we’re at a loss to understand why.”

Dadey floated three specific proposals: setting targets for half the indicators in the report which had no metrics to judge them by (the number of indicators with no target increased from 948 to 961 this year from last); providing more budget detail alongside performance indicators; and expanded reporting on cross-agency initiatives to track transparency (for instance Freedom of Information Law requests) and voting registration programs at agencies.

He called the lack of targets for half the proposals “disconcerting” as “it indicates one of two troubling possibilities. Either the agency experienced difficulty in setting goals in coordination with the office of the mayor or that these goals have been established and are possibly being concealed from the public. Neither is satisfactory,” he said.

To the administration’s credit, MOO has made effort to add sections on multi-agency initiatives, such as IDNYC, which was eventually folded into the report on the Human Resources Administration. “That’s what we want,” Tarlow said in response to questions from Council Member Carlos Menchaca. “To really feature a multi-agency new initiative and then have it be so routine that it becomes baked into the fabric of what we do on a day-to-day basis.”

Menchaca wanted to know how the PMMR and MMR reports evolve and about efforts to make the report machine readable. His larger concern, as chair of the Council’s immigration committee, was that the data be accessible to New York’s immigrant communities. “What do you do to get the report out in other languages?,” he asked.

Tarlow’s answer was unimpressive. “I actually don’t know,” she said.

Lisa Neary, general counsel for the Independent Budget Office, also testified, although less about the content of the reports than the process. IBO had testified at the December 2015 hearing as well, recommending legislation that would require citizen surveys to be included in the reports. The idea has been championed for a long time by Baruch Professor Doug Muzzio and a relevant bill has been introduced by Council Member Corey Johnson, though it has not received a vote.

On Wednesday, Neary focused on the timing of the two reports. She said the PMMR being released early in the year was inadequate since it only accounts for the first four months of the financial year (July to October).

“With only this partial picture in hand,” Neary said, “the Council lacks crucial information that would allow you to link objectives to resources, and resources to outcomes.” She cited the current PMMR’s data on Department of Education programs, where at least a dozen critical indicators were listed as “not available.” She said the MMR’s release was “even more poorly timed,” and should be some time between January and June to have maximum influence on budget decisions.

When Kallos asked her for suggestions, she said perhaps the MMR should be released with the executive budget in May and then a full accounting of the year should come out in October or November. “The key thing is to have as much information as you can at the time that you’re making resource allocation decisions,” she said.

Council Member Mark Levine, chair of the parks committee, questioned Tarlow and Chiu about PMMR indicators on park maintenance and capital park projects, as well as on the lack of information on eviction prevention and legal services. Council Member Vincent Gentile, in keeping with his position as chair of the oversight and investigations committee, asked MOO to consider tracking the performance of individual Inspectors General under the Department of Investigation. Tarlow had ready answers for both Council members and promised to discuss their concerns with individual agencies.

by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

*Photo of Ben Kallos by William Alatriste

Note: Gotham Gazette is an independent publication of Citizens Union Foundation, sister organization to Citizens Union.

Push for a Better Mayor's Management Report Continues Thu, 07 Apr 2016 19:34:38 +0000