Thursday, March 23, 2017

Open data for Lincoln

Today the Mayor is announcing our new Open Data and Performance Management website, opendata.lincoln.ne.gov. The site brings together some extensive data applications and resources that have been available on various City websites, but may have required some deep digging. Now, they are also available in this single portal where they may be more easily accessed.

More importantly, though, the site also provides open data: license-free, machine-readable datasets that may be downloaded in such common formats as csv, kml, shp, and json. A bit over half of the 100+ resources on the site today are available as open data, including both tabular and spatial datasets such as police incident reports, traffic crash records, zoning, city council districts, and much more.

Information about the City's performance management process, with links to the relevant data and documents will also allow visitors to see how we are doing on the City's eight key outcomes, along with their associated goals and performance indicators. We have also included a link to the City's new performance management meetings, LNKstat. The status reports from LNKstat meetings will show you what we are working on and the action steps planned.

Lincoln is joining a select groups of cities in the United States that are making open data available to the public. It's a great way to allow citizens to use these resources in creative and entrepreneurial
ways, and to increase transparency in municipal government.

Our open data site is built on the ESRI ArcGIS open data platform, which several other cities are using, such as Washington DC, Minneapolis, Tampa, and Wichita. It is a work in progress, and I expect it will continue to evolve as we add more data and features in the future.

I've been pleased to lead the City's open data initiative for the first few months, as the convener of our open data governance committee. We got a start last summer, when our City Council unanimously passed an open data resolution introduced by council members Trent Fellers and Leirion Gaylor Baird. The resolution created the governance committee, which has contributed a great deal to this project, and continues to work through five subcommittees.

Last fall, we were selected by What Works Cities to receive technical assistance and support for performance management and open data. Eric Reese from GovEx (Johns Hopkins Center for Government Excellence) was our primary contact from What Works Cities, and helped us tremendously. Thanks to all of these individuals and organizations for putting Lincoln on the open data map!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Fifty years ago

It's Nebraska's 150th anniversary today. Nebraska became a state in 1867. I arrived here in 1967,  Nebraska's centennial year. I was reflecting on this today, and came upon an interesting statistic from 50 years ago. In 1967, there were 445 traffic fatalities in Nebraska. Last year, there were 194. This huge decline is even more dramatic when you consider the population increase over the past 50 years, and the increase in miles driven. Here's what the trend looks like since 1995:



There are probably many factors that contribute to this decline, such as better roadway engineering, air bags, anti-lock breaks, stability control, better emergency medical care. Nothing, however, is as important as seat belt usage. Roadway surveys show that about 83% of Nebraskans were buckling up in 2016. Unsurprisingly, 68% of those who died in Nebraska collisions last year were not wearing their seatbelt.

Last night, as I was preparing dinner, a PulsePoint alert fired off on my phone. It was an injury traffic crash at 29th & O Street. I pulled up the nearest traffic camera, which is at 27th Street. It looked bad. An SUV was on its side, and it appeared to be a high-speed right angle collision. The driver of that vehicle, however, walked away with only minor bumps and bruises--because she was buckled up.

There is probably nothing you can do today that is more important in protecting you from death or injury than simply using your seatbelt. Make sure your passengers do the same, and that your children develop the lifelong habit through your example.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Getting the message?

Yet another pistol has been stolen from a vehicle that was apparently left unlocked overnight from Friday to Saturday. The gun was in the console. As in many of the past cases I've chronicled here, this victim has a concealed carry permit. I continue to advise against leaving your pistol in the vehicle overnight, for just this reason. If you accidentally forget to lock up, the pilferer picks your pistol, rather than just the loose change in your cup holder and your Ray Bans.

This is the first one in several weeks. Maybe, just maybe, people are getting the message.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Public safety at the Airbase

Lincoln's Airpark West is getting a lot of public safety attention lately, as we've opened a new firearms range and training facility, and are about to break ground on a replacement for Fire Station 11, near NW 48th and West Adams Streets. 

One of the most interesting periods in Lincoln’s history was from the early 1950s through the mid 1960s, when the Lincoln Air Force Base served as one of the largest and most important components of the nation’s nuclear shield. Not to forget the importance of the Lincoln Army Airfield’s role in World War II, but during the cold war the stakes were raised even higher. 

Lincoln’s huge airbase was the home of B-47 squadrons on hot alert 24/7/365, loaded with nuclear bombs, ready to roll around the clock during the height of the cold war, including the 13 days in October, 1962, when the world stood on the brink of Armageddon. It is a fascinating part of our history, and one that is rapidly fading.

Today, however, considerable visible evidence of this 15 year window of history remains. The concrete pads on either side of the runway where eight B-47 Stratojet nucler bombers awaited their mission are still there, slowly disintegrating into the earth. The bunkers that held both nuclear warheads and conventional munitions remain, and will probably outlast virtually every evidence of Lincoln’s very existence. Many of the buildings have been demolished, but many remain; including Lincoln Parks & Recreation’s Airpark Recreation Center.

Along Highway 33, between Lincoln and Crete, lies a Nike missile site, which protected the Lincoln airbase from Soviet bombers, and where over 100 soldiers and K-9s worked around the clock to ensure the security of the base, the City, and nearby Atlas Intercontinental Ballistic Missile installations. A companion Nike site north of Lincoln still stands as a daily reminder of these sentinels. The Integrated Fire Control center for the north site is now the campus of Raymond Central High School. 

When I was a student at Rountree Elementary School in Springfield, MO, fire alarm drills were not quite as memorable as the drills we practiced in the event of a nuclear attack: duck under the desk, hands behind the neck, fingers interlocked. A few years later, when the family moved to Lincoln, I had no idea that a significant component of the forces protecting us from this threat, through nuclear deterrence, were right here in my new hometown. 


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

LNKstat kick off

Taking Charge, the City of Lincoln's performance management process, by which we set goals, develop performance indicators, and monitor progress, jumped up to a new level today with the inauguration of LNKstat: a meeting designed to collaboaratively focus the attention of the City's management staff on our municipal government's performance. LNKstat meetings are patterned after a practice that was originally developed in policing during the 1990s, COMPSTAT, which here in Lincoln our police department calls ACUDAT

LNKstat is designed to serve the same purpose as ACUDAT, only by more broadly examining all eight of the City's outcomes, from safety & security to efficient transportation. We have been receiving some top-notch technical assistance from the What Works Cities initiative to develop and refine LNKstat, and this morning's meeting begins a series of six coming up in the next few months. 

Today's focus was on the City's first outcome area: safety & security. Our police and fire chief, along with our Parks & Recreation Department and Public Works Department, reviewed the public safety performance indicators from Taking Charge with Mayor Beutler and his staff, and fielded questions and comments from the other City department heads.

The City's performance management team, a group of representatives from most of the departments, led by the Mayor's Chief of Staff, has been working for the past few months with What Works Cities to prepare for this process. The first meeting was excellent. Lots of good information was shared, several action steps were identified, and we all had a productive meeting examining how things are going in the effort to ensure a safe and secure community, and what we need to do to keep on track. 

Next week, LNKstat will shift focus to outcome area number two: livable neighborhoods. This one may be even more challenging than safety & security, because there are eight City departments with a   portion of responsibility for this outcome. What's exciting to see is the City's top management staff focused together on these outcomes, not just those within our own individual domains. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What works?

What Works Cities is an initiative of the Bloomberg Philanthropies that helps cities enhance their use of data and evidence to improve their services. Lincoln was fortunate last year to be selected as one of the cities (57 so far) to receive technical assistance from the initiative.

Part of that assistance is in the form of training, and today we are hosting Eric Reese, from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Government Excellence, GovEx. Eric is leading a training session on performance management for about 130 City of Lincoln staff: department directors, their assistants, and senior managers. The purpose of this training is to help us further enhance our performance management process, exemplified by Taking Charge, Lincoln's outcome-based budgeting process.

Tomorrow, both the audience that the topic changes to open data. Lincoln is joining the nationwide open data movement, and our open data governance committee will be participating in what we are calling an Open Data Boot Camp: a half day to get every one up to speed on the concepts, purpose, practices, and opportunities surrounding open data. The governance committee is composed of 17 City staff and citizens from several walks of life.

I'm leading the City's open data initiative, at least for the moment, because of my interest in data. Greater transparency with police data was a recommendation of the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and anyone who has read my blog for any part of the past decade knows that I'm mighty interested in using data and analysis to guide operations. Lincoln already makes lots of data and information available to the public, but we intend to do even more, and to transition to more data made available in machine-readable format that can be easily downloaded and employed by anyone interested.

We are looking forward to a couple of days of engaging, interesting, and productive training. City Council member Leirion Gaylor Baird is largely responsible for Lincoln's selection as a What Works City, and the Mayor's Chief of Staff, Rick Hoppe, has been doing the heavy lifting for organizing both this training and the City's interface with the initiative.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Preparation advice

Yesterday, I received an email from a United States Marine, who will be leaving active duty in the near future, and is interested in a career in policing. He intends to continue his college education (he already has an Associate of Arts degree) to pursue a bachelor's degree, and was seeking my advice on the best majors for his career aspirations.  Here's what I suggested:

Good to hear from you, and thank you for your service to the United States. I would strongly advise that you pursue your bachelor's degree and take full advantage of your GI bill benefits. If you can do that before seeking full-time employment, you should do so. Having finished my own BS and MA while working full time, it's a load I certainly wish I could have avoided! 
If the financials don't work, the key is to put the nose to the grindstone and make sure you are getting at least a few credit hours under your belt every single semester, and at least one of the summer sessions. 
My personal opinion is that the field of study matters little. I switched my major to criminal justice as a senior, only so I could take advantage of Federal funding opportunities. Otherwise, I would have been an English major. One of the best police officers I ever hired, Vicki Bourg, had a BA in Restaurant Administration. 
I always advise young people to study what interests them, what they would find to be the least tedious.  You're more mature, and in your case I would also add this: "What course of study will require the least number of credit hours to complete my degree?" 
A Marine with a BA in Synchronized Swimming and some real-world experience still has a mighty strong set of credentials, in my book! 

Best wishes, 
Tom CasadyDirector of Public Safety

Thursday, December 8, 2016

You can do it!

This started as a series of tweets last night, but I want to preserve these thoughts by republishing them on my blog. Lincoln has reached 10,000 followers on PulsePoint, and the app is exploding across the U.S. and Canada. Too many people, however, think they need some kind of certification to perform CPR. Nothing wrong with good training and certification, but on the other hand, the lack thereof certainly doesn't prevent you from potentially saving a life. Here's the tweets:

Maybe you haven't dowloaded PulsePoint because you're not CPR certified. Training is always good, but 911 dispatchers around the world...   
...coach callers through bystander CPR over the phone every day. If you do nothing, because there isn't a card in your wallet,... 
...the odds are not good. Get the victim flat on his back, put your hands in the center of his chest, push hard and fast, and don't stop. 
Get some good training later, but in the meantime, don't just stand there and watch someone die. Any CPR is better than none. You can do it!

I should have added "Call 911",  get the victim on the floor flat on his back", and maybe even "send someone to look for an AED", but I bumped up against the 140 character limit. By the way, in the midst of my mini tweet-storm last night, I received this, which really says it all: