Duplicating what Baltimore and the state has done, Prince George’s County launched CountyStat on March 26 in an effort to create more transparency and accountability in government.

“CountyStat signals a new era of openness and accountability in Prince George’s.” stated Baker. “By monitoring performance, promoting innovation, and sharing our findings with the public, CountyStat will ensure my administration is making measurable progress toward improving the efficiency of the Prince George’s County government.”

Baltimore City and the State of Maryland introduced CitiStat and StateStat. CitiStat was implemented in 1999 under the leadership of former mayor and current Gov. Martin O’Malley. It was modeled after the New York Police Department’s weekly ComStat meetings. The process began with just the Baltimore Police Department and it instantly improved crime-fighting efficiency. The city then expanded the program to other services.

O’Malley implemented the same concept once he became governor. That resulted in allowing officials to see where there was waste in government. Now county officials hope to do the same thing.

The initial release of CountyStat already tells the tale of how far the county has to go to be able to compete with its neighbors.

Foreclosures in the county are still higher than those in Baltimore City or Montgomery County. More specifically, in March of last year, areas in Capitol Heights, Brentwood, Glenarden, Mount Rainier, Riverdale and Hyattsville had the highest percentage of foreclosures in the county.

Pedestrian safety is worse in the county than it is in any surrounding jurisdiction. Over a four-year period from 2005-2009, the percentage of pedestrians killed on state highways in the county was higher than the District as well as Montgomery, Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William Counties.

One underrated service that CountyStat measures is the county’s permitting process. The process has often been described as too long and cumbersome, but it also has been abused. The investigation that resulted in the arrest and subsequent plea deal by former County Executive Jack Johnson revealed the previous administration used this process to extract money from developers for campaign contributions and their own personal gain.

CountyStat was able to measure certain projects called “walk-thru’s” which should have gone through the review process in less than a week. However, a report discovered that 33 percent of those projects took three weeks a longer leading the county to report that there needed to be stronger criteria for the identification of those projects.

The plan is for CountyStat to constantly review the way the county deliver its services in this manner. It is that kind of review that will put the county’s business out for the world to see.

“CountyStat’s job is to make sure our government is operating as effectively as possible,” explained Baker. “It is a tool that will enable us to identify problems and implement strategies to improve our processes and operations.”

It will not just be a tool for Baker and his administration to use, but it will also be one that county residents can use to measure the performance their elected officials as well.

“CountyStat is not just a tool for me as county executive, but a tool for the people of Prince George’s County to monitor their government and see how effective we are,” Baker continued.

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO