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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Two mayors, two similar promises



When PolitiFact told newly elected Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn that it was creating a standing project — the Buck-O-Meter — just to track his follow-through on campaign promises, one of his first questions was, what other mayors are getting this treatment?

At the time, in early 2011, there was just one: Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald in Cleveland, Ohio. (PolitiFact was launched as the political fact-checking arm of the Tampa Bay Times, but it has partnerships with news organizations in 10 states.)

Since then, PolitiFact has added performance meters for mayors in Miami-Dade and, as of Thursday, St. Petersburg (the Krise-O-Meter, for new Mayor Rick Kriseman.)

With one exception, there's little overlap between the promises that PolitiFact Florida is tracking on Buckhorn and Kriseman. No surprise there: Tampa and St. Petersburg are different cities with different histories, issues, challenges and needs.

But both Buckhorn and Kriseman did promise to use "accountability standards" to measure and track the performance of their city departments.

Here is Kriseman's promise:

"As mayor, I will implement StPeteStat, based on the CitiStat model of statistics-driven accountability standards. Building on the city’s current Scorecard measures, StPeteStat will consist of regular meetings, during which my staff and I will meet with department heads to examine and analyze past performance, future performance objectives, and overall performance strategies."

Kriseman's performance is still to come, so stay tuned to the Krise-O-Meter.

But Buckhorn has received a Buck-O-Meter rating on his pledge: Promise Broken. (His overall scorecard: 19 promises kept, eight compromises, three promises broken, two in the works and two stalled.)

Here is Buckhorn's original promise for accountability standards, from the "Strong Neighborhoods" section of his campaign web site:

"Making neighborhoods the City's top priority means meeting our neighborhoods' most basic needs: sidewalks, flooding, streets, potholes, waterlines, and parks. As Mayor, Bob Buckhorn will establish Accountability Standards for each of the City's departments and their functions, from filling potholes to clearing storm water ditches. The City will know what the City's pressing problems are and how long it should take to fix them. The Mayor and City employees will stand accountable to City residents if the timetables established for resolving these issues are not complied with. As a first step in this process, Bob Buckhorn will complete a full City-wide Infrastructure Assessment to identify our neighborhoods' needs and begin to address them."

Last year, as Buckhorn approached the mid-point of his four-year term, here is how the Buck-O-Meter sized up his follow-through:

There is no initial assessment of city needs. No timetables have been established. There are no standards that residents can look to to hold city employees accountable.

In an interview with PolitiFact Florida on Feb. 26, 2013, Buckhorn said city departments already do something similar anyway, "but I don't know that we've compiled a massive list” of infrastructure needs.

"Each department knows what their outstanding obligations are,” he said.

Buckhorn went on to say that, contrary to his campaign promise, the idea was "not as much for the neighborhoods as it is for us internally and how we look at our budgeting and where we deploy our resources.” That way, he said, if the city has to cut funding, officials know the best places to cut. If the city gets additional revenues, it knows where to put the money to work.

Buckhorn said he still would like to follow through on this promise, but "I've got to figure out how to do it.”

Candidate Bob Buckhorn promised to create a comprehensive inventory of infrastructure needs that residents could use to hold city officials accountable. When asked about it recently, he said the idea was more to benefit city departments, which already know their responsibilities. That stands in direct contradiction to the original promise, which was about giving residents more information to hold city officials, including the mayor, accountable. And he acknowledged that nothing has been done on this promise in any case. To be useful, accountability standards would have to be created early enough in Buckhorn's term so that residents could track progress over time. That hasn't happened, and there is no identified plan to make it happen. We will revisit this issue if the city makes progress on it. As it stands, we rate this Promise Broken.

That was last year. As of Thursday, Buckhorn's office said there was nothing new on the promise.

[Last modified: Thursday, January 2, 2014 1:56pm]


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