Sunday, June 16, 2024 Jun 16, 2024
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Local Government

A Week-One Item for Our Next Mayor: Take Robert Mundinger to Lunch

This city needs better data. Mundinger can help.

So here we are. Or almost are. After starting with a field of nine candidates for mayor of Dallas, we now have two facing each other in a June 8 runoff. I won’t say whether I favor Eric Johnson or Scott Griggs. But I will give the winner some advice: in your first week in office, take Robert Mundinger to lunch.

We’ve written before about Robert. For kicks, the thirtysomething consultant from University Park maintains a data-visualization tool called, appropriately enough, TheMap. There you can do stuff like see how 311 complaints are distributed across the city. It’s a constant work in progress, and a lot of that work involves trying to pry numbers out of City Hall, where the IT infrastructure seems held together with chewing gum and baling wire, and data requests too often generate enormous, impenetrable PDFs that are the bane of someone who, say, wants to share information online in a way that people can actually understand and react to.

Robert recently wrote a post for FrontBurner in which he compared Dallas to Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, in terms of how the cities handle their data. We don’t look good. “I can literally make a map of every pothole patched in Chicago yesterday,” Robert wrote. “I can see what streets were congested. I can do this in LA. I can look at every parking meter that’s currently occupied in LA right now. I can do this in NYC. I can tell you which streets are currently undergoing construction today. I can tell you how many kids attended each school in NYC yesterday! I can do all of that without writing an email, without picking up the phone. I can do it without having to pay a dime or wait a second. Without a built-in, process-oriented approach to data collection and dissemination, there is no way for citizens to know valuable information.”

What we are talking about here is really a matter of transparency and accountability, not just at City Hall but at every agency that gathers data and whose work affects our quality of life. DART, DISD, DHA, DPD, TxDOT, DCAD—every initialism and acronym in North Texas should be on the same webpage. The next mayor of Dallas can lead the charge to make that happen. That would be a legacy. The mayor who gave us the data.

The process starts at AllGood Cafe, in Deep Ellum. Robert likes to have breakfast for lunch.