In 2015, the City of Topeka began its effort to become more transparent. This quickly evolved into what is known as the City’s Open Government initiative. On direction from the City’s Governing Body and City Manager, the deputy director of the information technology department worked tirelessly with the city manager, department directors, executive staff and the budget and performance manager to develop a system that would allow the City to interact with its citizens on a data and fact driven basis.
So far, Topeka has released five open portals for public use. A strong partnership with What Works Cities initiative, supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, was developed with the City of Topeka. This allowed the City to engage with other What Works Cities partners.
We have also partnered with Socrata, who provided the software we use for our data portals.
The City of Topeka has two teams that keep the open data initiative going. The first team is the Open Data Review Board. This board is responsible for identifying available data for publishing on the City’s open data portal. The board reviews datasets and the information they contain and identifies what should be made public.
The second team, the Performance Management Plan Group, consists of about 65 people, ranging from the city manager and department directors to analysists, accountants and frontline employees from different departments. The group convenes on a quarterly basis to review department and City performance measures to find issues or information missing from the City’s open performance portal, identify trends in information provided in department measures in the performance management plan, and to increase the amount of information readily available to the public through open data.
City releases Open Data Portal (data.topeka.org), the homepage for all pending open data platforms.
City adds its first major additions to the Open Data Portal: 2015 and 2016 Open Budget Portals (budget.topeka.org).
City adds comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan webpage to the website: topeka.org/cip. It includes an interactive, educational map of CIP projects dating back to 2004.
City releases Capital Projects Dashboard (projects.topeka.org), an interactive platform of the City’s Capital Improvement Plan projects worth $250,000 or more.
City releases Open Checkbook Portal (checkbook.topeka.org), an interactive look into each purchase the City makes.
Topeka announced as a Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works City.
Open Data Policy goes into effect
City releases Open Performance Portal, an interactive presentation of City goals and measures.
On June 13, 2016, City of Topeka, Mayor Larry Wolgast, announced the City’s partnership with What Works Cities, operated by Bloomberg Philanthropies. The What Works Cities initiative comes at no cost to taxpayers and provides resources in the forms of materials, collaboration among neighboring cities alike and partnerships in attempt to address challenges facing municipalities across the country.
Through this initiative, the City worked with departments to develop an inventory of all our datasets and a new internal City of Topeka Open Data Policy to govern how and what we do with the data we find. A second initiative through this partnership focused on the City’s need for internal performance management practices.
On October 3, 2016, City Manager Jim Colson approved and signed the City of Topeka Open Data Policy. The purpose of the policy is to provide guidelines to City departments and employees in the distribution of open data and assist in the development and implementation of open data projects.
In line with the new policy, the City established an “Open Data Review Board” that is responsible for publishing data that is accurate, timely and accessible to the public. The committee also determined valuable steps and requirements for publishing data, including an open data checklist for processing information to determine whether it contains any sensitive information that cannot be released to the public. The City also established monthly Open Data Review Board meetings to review available datasets, prioritize dataset needs, process datasets through the checklist requirements for publishing, determine dataset stakeholders, identify community engagement opportunities for open data and publish data in accordance with the City of Topeka Open Data Policy and determine whether it contains any sensitive information that cannot be released to the public.
The Open Data Policy and Open Data Review Board were established with the help from What Works Cities and the Sunlight Foundation.
The project portal is designed to offer insight into cost and timeline information on the City’s capital improvement projects (CIP). This is only a small representation of CIP projects.
A Capital Improvement Plan (Program), or CIP, is a short-range plan, usually four to ten years, which identifies capital projects and equipment purchases, provides a planning schedule and identifies options for financing the plan. Project performance measures depict the cost and schedule status compared to the goals established at the beginning of the project.
Get more information about the City’s CIP, including an interactive storybook map of past and present CIP projects.
Working with What Works Cities and the Center for Government Excellence at John Hopkins University, the City of Topeka developed a performance management plan that consists of internal measures for each department, with results reported on a quarterly and/or annual basis. The performance management plan also describes how performance management is directly related to the annual budget process and priorities set by the Governing Body.
The initiative consisted of three steps:
The Performance Portal was launched in December 2016. Organized by priority type, these measures allow the public to study and find information on performance indicators of City operations. These portal measures are reviewed on a quarterly basis and will be changed according to the public’s demands and requests.
This initiative helped advance Topeka’s ability to deliver results for residents by strengthening its performance management systems and processes. This includes creating opportunities for staff to improve skills, making performance management processes routine across departments and accelerating the development of key performance measures. These opportunities, used in concert with the open data program, ensure a culture of performance is sustained over the long-term.
The City of Topeka will continue to increase the number of published datasets on the City’s open data portal in 2017 as the Open Data Review Board continues to work through the checklist for publishing internal information. The City measures and tracks the number of page views related to each of the portals and will work in 2017 to increase citizen engagement and publicity to encourage utilization of and drive more people to the open data sites. This will lead to further collaboration between Topeka citizens and staff.