Mayor Brandon Scott speaks at the 2023 State of the City address. (Courtesy photo by J.J. McQueen)
Mayor Brandon Scott speaks at the 2023 State of the City address. (Courtesy photo by J.J. McQueen)

In Mayor Brandon Scott’s State of the City address last month, he talked about his Baltimore upbringing and praised it as the best city in the world. But is Baltimore at the forefront of data-driven cities? In other words: Are we the best when it comes to data? 

According to the Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative What Works Cities, which recognizes local governments that excel in using data and evidence, the answer is a resounding yes.

Thanks to Baltimore’s data administration work with Open Baltimore, a website with hundreds of datasets published by the city and its partners, the city has been noted for its data employment and leadership. That recognition extends worldwide, as evidenced by Chief Data Officer Justin Elszasz speaking at Bloomberg CityLab last October. 

In 2021, Baltimore achieved the What Works Cities Certification, which has become a national standard of excellence for well-managed, data-driven local government. The Center for Government Excellence (GovEx) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU), a partner of What Works Cities, helps agencies use data to make informed decisions that improve people’s lives. JHU developed GovEx in 2015 as a consulting group that works with large datasets to improve city government operations.

According to GovEx Founder Beth Blauer, Baltimore has pioneered evidence-based, data-driven decision-making among US cities.

“We have some of the most talented public thinkers in Baltimore and a tremendous amount of opportunity,” said Blauer, who previously worked with governments worldwide to establish data practices. 

She now carries that expertise into the Baltimore Chief Administrative Officer’s office to advance these practices in the city.

Mayor Scott announced the appointment of Blauer, JHU’s associate vice provost for public sector innovation and cofounder of the Centers for Civic Impact, during last week’s address. Civic Impact, under which GovEx operates, was founded in 2019 and provides coaching, public sector training and evidence-based research to help governments solve problems. Blauer also played an integral role in the development of a Johns Hopkins-produced map that tracked COVID-19’s spread in Baltimore until it stopped collecting data on March 10.

Mayor Scott noted the importance of Bauer’s appointment in his State of the City remarks. 

“Now, Beth Blauer is answering the call in a big way,” Mayor Scott said, referring to his remarks’ overarching theme of everybody being a stakeholder in this work. “Beth, the current associate vice provost for public sector innovation at Johns Hopkins, is joining my administration on a temporary assignment to help us better leverage data and performance to drive innovation and improvements to city service delivery. Beth will work in close partnership with our [Chief Administrative Officer, or] CAO, Faith Leach.” 


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