City Hall

Dallas' Performance Dashboard Is Here to Tell Us ... Something

Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax
Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax Stephen Young
Monday morning, Dallas finally rolled out its performance dashboard, which is supposed to give residents something close to a real time look at some of the things they care most about, like police response times, street repairs and homeless services. There are 35 items included on the dashboard, all part of Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax's Dallas 365 initiative. Some of them make sense and are actually pretty illuminating, but many are likely to leave those viewing the charts scratching their heads because of a lack of context.

click to enlarge CITY OF DALLAS
City of Dallas
The first set of numbers that pop up when viewers navigate to Broadnax's baby, are eight public safety stats, all of which cover the first quarter of the city's 2017-2018 fiscal year. A couple of things that stick out: The homicide clearance rate, which has hovered between 40 and 50 percent for the last couple of years, has skyrocketed, at least over this short sample, something the city credits to reduced crime during the winter months, which allowed DPD more time to focus on clearing cases. The city's 911 system seems to be back in order, as well, with almost 94 percent of calls getting answered in less than 10 seconds.

Then there's the stuff that could be good or bad. The city says 179 arrests by the narcotics division, which leaves them short of the 201 arrests per quarter goal set by the city, aren't enough, but who's to say there wasn't less drug activity during the winter? For that matter, who's to say that more raw arrests by DPD's narcotics division are a good thing, especially as the city and county try to move to a more progressive enforcement model for low-level drug crime?

The only red mark on the chart — labeled "needs improvement," like an elementary school report card — is on "community events attended" statistic. Cops attended 198 community events during the first few months of 2017-18, which seems like a lot. According to the city, however, they should've attended 450, something city staff blames, in part, on attrition. 
click to enlarge CITY OF DALLAS
City of Dallas
Under the tab labeled "economic and neighborhood vitality," the city touts the number of housing units that opened in the first quarter, 158, without noting that 150 of those units are in the same luxury building downtown, 1900 Pacific. There's also the confusing $17,398.33 figure for the average home repair. Unless the person viewing the dashboard is intimately familiar with city of Dallas programs, he or she probably doesn't know that that number refers to the average repair cost of homes that receive assistance from the Dallas Home Repair Program, which helps owners out with stuff like roofs and HVAC replacement. The number reported by the city needs improvement not because it's too high, but because it's too low. The city wants to spend more on each home repair.
click to enlarge CITY OF DALLAS
City of Dallas
The "human and social needs" section needs more translation. "Number of community engagements undertaken" actually represents the number of times staff at the city's new Welcoming Communities & Immigrant Affairs Office connected with communities in the city, helping immigrants to Dallas integrate into the city.

The rest of the charts bring more of the same. Useful data from the city collected in one place that's hard to read, much less understand, unless you're a frequent consumer of this stuff. Check it out, then go comment on this Facebook post from City Council member Philip Kingston on the stats you'd like to see make the dashboard's second draft. 
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young