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She speaks data fluently, but Cincinnati Chief Performance Officer Leigh Tami is quick to point out that it’s her adopted language.
“Full disclosure, I am a lawyer. Data is my language by trade,” said Tami, who studied public finance and education law in law school.
But less than two years after joining the city in April 2015 as a data analyst, she’s risen to become its second-ever CPO — working with City Manager Harry Black to write data-based performance agreements with department heads, and spearheading the December 2016 launch of CincyInsights, a new portal with 15 dashboards.
At a cost of around $55,000, the dashboards let Cincinnati residents track everything from emergency medical responses to trash collection, updated every 10 minutes, and snow removal, updated every three minutes. From the portal’s debut on Dec. 7 to Jan. 30, it received almost 26,000 views. Dashboards on snowplow progress, the visualization of the month and the heroin epidemic were among the most popular.
Those views, Tami said, are proof City Hall is on the right track in trying to harness data’s potential.
“I think data is great, it’s a really important movement. We’re not just releasing paper, we’re not just releasing information,” she said. “People consume information in the form of data, and I think the fact that government is trying to adapt to that is really significant.”
Significance aside, the Cincinnati CPO’s office still operates lean, with just five full-time staffers — Tami, the chief data officer, an innovation manager and two full-time analysts. But Tami credits the city manager, mayor and City Council with empowering her office to meet the challenges of big, open data.
“I think a huge component of this is that we have had the support of the administration, the support of the council and the mayor,” Tami said. “We’re living increasingly where you have the Internet of Things, the smart city discussion is really hot right now. Everybody wants a piece of that."