Data Portals Help Increase Understanding of City Operations

July 7, 2011 - 12:51pm


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In the Civic Federation’s “Recommendations for a Financially Sustainable City of Chicago” report issued last week, the Federation discussed the importance of a government making data about its operations available for public download. Municipalities often include data about budgets and tax increment financing on their websites, as well as information about traffic congestion, consumer complaints and locations of graffiti.

The City of Chicago has a data portal website that has a variety of data sets available for download such as geographic information system data,  requests, health facilities information and transportation information. Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently added the FY2011 Appropriation Ordinance to the City’s data portal.[1] However, the portal does not contain performance measurement data.[2]

Recommendation 34 in the “Financially Sustainable Chicago” report called for an expansion of Chicago’s online data portal to make budget, financial data and performance measurement sets publicly available. At a minimum this should include data sets containing actual expenses, revenues and fund balances for five years, as well as estimates for the current budget year and projections for the proposed budget. The data sets should include details by fund, department and object so that the user can sort and analyze the information according to differing levels of detail. To ensure data integrity for performance measures, the City should also develop and publish data definitions that clearly explain the meaning of each measure, the goals and objectives for each measure, the source of the data and any calculations used. The Federation noted that it would be possible to implement these changes quickly.

New York City and San Francisco are two examples of municipalities that have effectively produced machine-readable data available for the public. The City of New York’s data mine website contains a variety of data sets including the following:

  • Budget Expense All Funds: Data set contains expense budgets by agency for actual fiscal years and five financial plan fiscal years in all funds.
  • Budget Expense City Funds: Data set contains expense budgets by agency for actual fiscal years and five financial plan fiscal years in City funds.
  • Budget Revenue Additional: Data set contains revenue for actual fiscal years and five financial plan fiscal years
  • Capital All Funds: Data set contains capital commitments for actual fiscal years and five financial plan fiscal years in all funds.
  • 311 Consumer Complaints: A spreadsheet listing NYC 311 consumer complaint information.

The City of San Francisco website contains a variety of data sets including the following:

  • Adopted Position Budgets:This shows the adopted position budgets for all San Francisco Departments for two fiscal years - FY 2009-2010 and FY 2010-2011. It is organized by Organization (Department and Division), Service (Program), Fund, Job Class, Bargaining Unit and Type of Expenditure (Salaries or Benefits).
  • 2010 Employee and Retiree Health Plan Enrollment Demographic: This data set displays the number of employees, retirees and eligible family members enrolled in Health Service System (HSS) medical, dental and vision plans as of July 1, 2010. The data encompasses the City & County of San Francisco, San Francisco Unified School District and the San Francisco Community College District. It is broken out in numerous ways.
  • Employee Count by Department and Union: Employee Count by Department, broken out by Union.
  • Citywide Performance Measures Data: Controller’s Office manages the Citywide Performance Measurement Program and it collects and reports performance data from 50 City departments. The database contains over 1,100 performance measures, which are collected semi-annually.


[1] City of Chicago, Office of the Mayor, “The First 30 Days of the Emanuel Administration,” news release, June 16, 2011.
[2] City of Chicago, “Mayor Emanuel Announces Formation Of Task Force On TIF Reform,” news release, May 19, 2011.

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