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Dallas’ Annual Report Underscores the Need for Better Data

Let me harp on something.

City Manager T.C. Broadnax released his annual report yesterday. It takes the form of a website that—and you would, of course, expect this—views the year through rose-colored glasses, pulling out and highlighting the achievements. Dog bites are down. Nearly 200,000 pounds of free, fresh produce were distributed throughout the community. About 700 tons of bulk trash were collected. That sort of thing. All the good stuff.

The numbers are objective, but the takeaway isn’t balanced. That’s where the city’s Dallas 365 dashboard, linked within the annual report, should come in.

Broadnax rolled it out a couple years ago to track 35 key metrics year round, updated monthly. But it doesn’t seem to be very high functioning. For instance, the homicide clearance rate shows at 96.5 percent, including a November 2019 rate of 150 (!?) percent. Compare that to last year’s rate of 73.4 percent, per the recent Dallas PD report on violent crime. Other metrics appear to be off target from the city’s goals but have been marked “on target,” or are actually on target but have been marked “needs improvement.”

Part of this could be an issue of how the information is tracked and maintained. As Robert Mundinger wrote for us last year, Dallas is far behind some other major cities when it comes to prioritizing its data infrastructure. It’s certainly behind in presenting easy-to-digest, accurate data to the public. Dallas 365 seems to have been a well-intentioned project to close that gap, but a couple years since it’s been up and running, the city is still working out the kinks.

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