OP's Swenson leading other towns into 'performance measurement'

Putting numbers to service delivery common in business

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By Katharine Grayson

"Performance measurement" has been a buzz term in the corporate world for years, and the concept is now slowly starting to gain the interest of local government officials throughout the country.

The idea behind performance measurement is in part to establish criteria by which government can determine the success of a particular program or service. For instance, to judge the effectiveness of its emergency medical services, a village may begin more closely tracking the average time it takes for an ambulance to reach a homeowner.

Oak Park has begun setting up criteria for several programs, but is now also looking more closely at comparing its performance with that of other communities.

Oak Park already exchanges information with members of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), a consortium of communities nationwide who operate under the Village Manager form of government.

"It's a project to get information and hard data on service delivery," said Oak Park Village Manager Carl Swenson.

One problem with the system, however, is that many communities in Illinois are not members, Swenson said. Before last week, Oak Park, Elgin, St. Charles and Peoria County were the only Illinois communities that have joined the ICMA.

To help pull in more communities, Swenson said he took a "leadership role" in setting up a conference last week, designed to bring roughly 50 Chicago area municipalities into the system.

"I see other communities joining as a real value to Oak Park. There's value in having a consortium of communities working under the same state laws and mandates, the same climate and topography, and the same labor costs and climate," Swenson, who's a member of the ICMA's steering committee, said last week.

Swenson added specific communities, whose data will be especially beneficial to Oak Park, that have recently signed on include Skokie and Evanston.

"This is really the future of city management, and it's good for the region," he said.

As part of its budget process last year, the village board looked to set up performance measurement criteria related to its own programs, as well as that of the village's partner agencies.

Village President David Pope said he's also interested in expanding the process of establishing performance measurement across all taxing bodies in Oak Park. If successful, that would allow village government to help set up priorities that took into account the needs of all of Oak Park's governments.

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