Navigator Award Finalists: Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black and Team


Connecting state and local government leaders

Among all the impressive work being done at Cincinnati City Hall to improve services, there’s a great fix-it app, too.

This is the 23rd in a series of profiles on the 50 finalists for Route Fifty’s Navigator Awards program. The first 10 finalists were from the Government Allies and Cross-Sector Partners category. Finalists 11-20 were from the Agency and Department Leadership category. Finalists 21-30 were from the Executive Leadership category. Finalists 31-40 were from the Next Generation category. Finalists 41-50 were from the Data and IT Innovators category. Explore our complete list of 50 finalists.​

Cincinnati’s city manager, Harry Black, has set high expectations for the municipal government in Ohio’s third-largest city.

“I want Cincinnati to be recognized as the best managed city in America,” Black told me last year during a visit to observe CincyStat, an initiative of the Office of Performance and Data Analytics that the city manager and his team had launched a few months before. That operation helps to foster municipal innovation and improves government services while finding efficiencies and savings for taxpayers through the regular use of data analytics. 

Just before my visit, the OPDA’s Innovation Lab had discovered that Cincinnati had been paying upwards of $100,000 in late fees on utility accounts city agencies had with Duke Energy, a situation that was promptly addressed. The city now expects annual cost savings of $133,000.

At the beginning of this year, Cincinnati’s city government opened a new consolidated permitting center that is not only making it easier to access services but is also helping the city reduce the amount of time needed to review permit applications.

The city has saved $300,000 in capital requests through improved IT governance, part of the overall performance management effort that's led to $2.8 million in annual impact, according to a memo Black sent Cincinnati’s mayor and city council in September, detailing his office’s accomplishments after two years on the job.

Included on that list are a new data-driven community policing strategy, expanded open data offerings and improved blight abatement efforts, “which completely transformed a previously inefficient paper process into an all-digital process, leading to immediate improvements throughout the City and improved revenue collections.”

Another improvement in Cincinnati: Making it easier for residents to report problems and request services.

In its Navigator Award nomination submission for Black and his team, Cincinnati’s city government wanted to tout the rollout of its Fix It Cincy! app:

Fix It Cincy! opens on a screen with three options: You can request a service, view service dates in a specific area (like trash and recycling collection) or check on the status of requests you’ve already made.

When you make a request or view dates, the user is directed to a map of Cincinnati to find your location by GPS, selecting a location on the map or searching by address. The map also shows the location of pending service requests others have submitted.

Once a location is selected, users can request a wide variety of city services or report problems—from housing maintenance and food operations issues to missed garbage collection, litter, potholes or broken traffic lights.

A new feature of the redesign allows a user to submit a photograph of the issue they’re reporting in addition to a written description. The aim of adding this visual communication component was to help the City know exactly how to fix the problem. For instance the City uses a different method to treat a 2-inch pothole than a 12-inch pothole, so a picture of the pothole uploaded through the app makes it much easier to fix properly.

It's a sleek and handy tool and part of the overall package of improvements that Black has helped drive since he arrived in Cincinnati.

While it’s hard to quantify where Cincinnati ranks among the nation’s best-managed municipalities, Route Fifty is pleased to name Harry Black and his team in the city manager’s office as Navigator Award finalists in the Executive Leadership category. There’s a lot of impressive work going on to improve the city’s government and it's making Cincinnati stand out among its municipal peers when it comes to management.

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

NEXT STORY: Navigator Award Finalist: Deborah Collins, Deputy County Administrator, Essex County, N.J.