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To: Mayor John Hamilton
From: Task Force on Government Innovation
Date: August 15, 2016
Subject: Task Force Recommendations

Mayor Hamilton,

Over the past six months The Task Force on Government Innovation has embraced your challenge to offer recommendations to enhance the City of Bloomington's interaction with its citizens and improve its efficiency internally. After studying the structure of city government and learning how other cities' innovation offices have approached the task, the Task Force is pleased to present you with a list of recommendations for your consideration.

The ideas presented by The Task Force were narrowed to eleven priorities for the 2017 City of Bloomington budget year. After completing a ranking process it was clear there were two tiers of recommendations with five ideas identified as priorities:

  1. Create a Department / Director of Innovation
  2. Run a 2017 Budget Participatory Budgeting Pilot
  3. Define, Measure, and Publish Metrics
  4. Create a Public Engagement Officer and / or Office
  5. Create an Ombudsman Position

The next six recommendations (to give the top eleven recommendations voted upon by the Task Force) are as follows.

  1. Develop UReport 360
  2. Create a Universal Community Calendar
  3. Staff development and education to facilitate better customer service (know where to send people) both within the city and without (country, state, etc.)
  4. Web and mobile messaging service: leverage a platform, like Intercom or Peoplocity , to provide realtime online messaging assistance and guidance to citizens
  5. Cityrun invasive control days. Bring volunteers to Cascades/other areas to pull invasives by hand. Once/twice per month
  6. Community Innovation Fund ( or CoB Innovation Fund). Seed $ for innovative projects from public, private, NFP sectors that produce community value

Upon completing the recommendations, The Task Force discussed the importance of creating and fostering a culture of innovation and openness within city government. To that end, the Task Force strongly recommends the Administration immediately establish an "Innovation Team" of employees to explore opportunities internal to the City of Bloomington. Leveraging the insights and experiences of the City's strongest assets its people allows the Administration to continue to demonstrate its commitment to innovation, build trust amongst employees, and identify meaningful opportunities in the delivery of City services.

The Task Force appreciates the opportunity to serve the City in initiating this important process. We hope the requested brief descriptions of the recommendations that follow will motivate meaningful discussion and change. If you or any member of your Administration wishes, the Task Force will provide additional research into the specifics of any of the proposals.


TheĀ City of Bloomington Task Force on Government Innovation

Recommendation 1: Create a Department or Director of Innovation

The Task Force proposes that the City of Bloomington create a Director of Innovation, with the possible longterm expansion into a larger department. The Director will serve as part of the Office of the Mayor and study and implement recommendations for improving the city's performance, internally and externally. Future members of the department should be tech savvy, but not limit themselves only to techbased innovations.

The day-to-day job responsibilities would involve studying the methods and innovations of other cities, canvassing the public for input and ideas, and working with the Mayor's office, Department Directors, and other City of Bloomington employees to identify opportunities to innovate and to successfully implement ideas.

Examples of similar departments can be found in Boston's Department of New Urban Mechanics and San Francisco's Office of Civic Innovation.

Recommendation 2: Run a 2017 Budget Participatory Budgeting Pilot

Participatory Budgeting is a public engagement process through which the public is given direct control of the allocation of a portion of the city budget. A full participatory budgeting process invites the public into the process at the very beginning, allowing the public to generate proposals for budget money through a facilitated process and then to vote on which proposals are funded through a citywide selection process.

The Task Force proposes the city run a small Participatory Budgeting pilot in 2017 or 2018, in which one or two council districts or neighborhoods are chosen to participate or in which some small amount of money is allocated citywide.

References for further study of Participatory Budgeting:

Recommendation 3: Define, measure, and publish metrics

The Task Force recommends the City of Bloomington continue to refine how local government identifies, prioritizes, and communicates its goals and objectives with its citizens. Specifically, the Task Force recommends (1) the City creates and implements a citizen survey to gauge community priorities as well as identify citizen satisfaction with local government. Communicating these results, as well as providing quarterly updates on key metrics used by each Department of the City of Bloomington so citizens can see how well the City of Bloomington is doing in meeting community goals and its effectiveness in delivering City services.

An example of a department specific survey is currently being used by the Department of Parks and Recreation. This survey could serve as a model for other City of Bloomington Departments as a model to design additional survey sections. Other cities that implement citizen satisfaction surveys include (but are not limited to):

Kansas City, Missouri:
Arlington, Texas:
Austin, Texas:

A strong example of how the City of Bloomington can communicate its ongoing successes in meeting departmental objectives is offered by the City of Boston through its Data Portal ( ) and its Mayor's Dashboard (

Recommendation 4: Create a Public Engagement Officer or Office

Public Engagement and Participatory Democracy are the practice of including the public as active members of the policy discussion and decision making process from the beginning. A well run public engagement process can give citizens a powerful voice in and a measure of direct control over the policy decisions of the city. In doing so, it can sap the venom out of contentious policy debates such as the deer issue, or current Duke substation question.

The Task Force proposes that the city create an Officer of Public Engagement as a position in the Communications department, in a potential Department of Innovation, or as a starting position for an Office of Public Engagement. The Officer should be an expert in public engagement processes. They would be empowered to advocate for the use of public engagement processes around city policy discussions and advise the Mayor's office on which policy discussions would most benefit from public engagement processes. They would organize and facilitate said public engagement processes and act as a resource for Departments seeking to organize public engagement around their issues.

References for further study on Public Engagement:
Slow Democracy by Susan Clark and Woden Teachout, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012

Recommendation 5: Create an Ombudsman Position

Create an independent Ombudsman position that can represent the public and investigate complaints and violations. While created by the Administration and the City Council, the Ombudsman position would work independently of both bodies and serve as a resource for citizens of Bloomington who have questions, concerns, or complaints concerning city government. The City of Bloomington once had an Ombudsman but the position was eliminated due to budget cuts.

Recommendation 6: Create UReport 360

The Task Force recommends doing further development work on UReport to add the ability for city workers to better respond to closed issues, perhaps with a photo of the work done.

See City Worker and Citizen Connect in Boston:

Recommendation 7: Develop Universal community calendar

The Task Force recommends the creation of a universal community calendar available for the public to add events to. This calendar should include all public meets and should provide a method by which community organizations and businesses could add public events to it. A Google calendar embedded within the city website could be an excellent way to do this.

Recommendation 8: Provide Staff with Customer Service Training

The Task Force recommends that the city provide staff with development, education, and training to facilitate better customer service. Train staff so that they know where to send people both within the city and outside of it (county, state, etc.)

Recommendation 9: Web and Mobile Messaging Service

The Task Force recommends that the city leverage a platform, like Intercom or Peoplocity, to provide realtime online messaging assistance and guidance to citizens. The online messaging service is an enhancement to the City of Bloomington's UReport and in many ways functions as an online 311 system. Specifically, the online service would be a realtime single point of contact for citizens to interact with local government. Such a system will help citizens navigate the services they need, answer their questions, and streamline their interactions with the City of Bloomington ultimately enhancing their customer service experience with the local government.

Recommendation 10: City-run Invasive Control Days

Invasive species represent an urgent threat to the health of what little natural ecology remains. Urban areas are often the epicenters of invasive plant incursions. In order to both be better stewards of the ecology of our city, and educate the public about the dangers posed by invasive species, which species are native, and how to be better stewards of their properties, the Task Force recommends the city run volunteer invasive control days.

On these days, run several times a year, the city would select an area of public land and invite volunteers to come help pull invasives by hand. The city would provide tools and educational materials. City leaders or volunteer leaders would lead the volunteers through the process of identifying invasive species, cutting or pull them manually, and seeding or planting natives in the cleared areas.

Recommendation 11: Community Innovation Fund

The Task Force recommends that the city create a seed fund for innovative projects from public, private, NFP sectors that produce community value. In the past, the City of Bloomington has managed a loan fund through the Economic Development Commission. This fund helped local entrepreneurs and established businesses at important moments of a company's launch or expansion. The Community Innovation Fund would be more focused in its objectives, potentially leveraging City of Bloomington dollars with those of the private sector including incubators and individual angel investors.