Is it possible to run a city like a business? We’re about to find out.

Entrepreneur whiz-kid Harry Black has taken on the challenge of turning the city council of Cincinnati, Ohio, into a performance-driven, goal-achieving machine.

In an interview with Backchannel, Black said that instead of high profits and excellent branding (staple goals for businesses) he was setting an agenda for flourishing neighbourhoods, safer communities, and economic and environmental sustainability.

Residents are now customers. Policies are now targets. The transformation has begun.

Black brings with him data-wunderkind Chad Kenney Jr., who has worked with Black in Baltimore. Together they put together an ‘Innovation Lab’ able to pinpoint the biggest issues facing the city.

Kenney comes with a reputation. The Baltimore Brew described him as “abrasive”, “talented”, and “committed”. While in Baltimore he worked assiduously to track the workflow of government services, levels of street violence and homelessness.

He brings the lessons learned from Baltimore to Cincinnati; and is ready to track the efficacy with which the city handles its US$1 billion budget.

Black was Kenney’s chief financial officer in Baltimore.

During his tenure Black oversaw a plan to save the city fire department US$70 million while at the same time increasing firefighters’ pay by a respectable 14.5 per cent.

Black was quoted in the Cincinnati Enquirer as being saddened at the recent rioting in the neighbourhood where he grew up. “Baltimore, like Cincinnati, is undergoing an economic resurgence,” he told the newspaper. “However, everyone has to be a part of the success. The challenge is you have to pay attention to all your communities.”

 

But not everyone is welcoming the dynamic duo. UrbanCincy, a blog on Cincinnati affairs has called Black “strong-headed and ruthless” in his manner. The Enquirer revealed that while running finances in Richmond, Virginia Black earned himself the nickname “Mr Pit Bull.”

“I’m not a pit Bull,” Black laughs. “I’m open minded, but decision and mission driven.”

Governments everywhere are waiting to see how and what Black and Kenney do.

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