Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Challenges of Evidence-Based Decision Making to Combat Urban Blight: Revisiting Local Government Information Management with the Lens of Code Enforcement

Friday, November 13, 2015 : 1:30 PM
Pearson I (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Minyoung Ku and J. Ramon Gil-Garcia, University at Albany - SUNY
The need for an evidence-based approach to public administration and policy has been growing, as the effectiveness of the traditional process-oriented decision making in solving complex problems in the public sector has become questionable. The increasing awareness of uncertainty in policy environments among policy makers and practitioners is strengthening this trend. In addition, the increasing availability of inexpensive digital data from diverse sources and the rapid advance in data analytics, coupled with newly emerging technologies, enable decision makers to use richer sources of information to make better decisions and smarter interventions in the public sector. However, our understanding of how the data resources are managed and support public policy and administrative decision making in governments especially at local levels is still limited.

            This study aims to explore government information management policies and environments, and the conditions and mechanisms through which evidence-informed decisions occur in local governments. For a more detailed discussion, we have narrowed our scope to code enforcement policies and actions in local governments, regarding new construction and the maintenance of existing structures within cities. Building and housing code enforcement is vital for securing economic development, public safety, and the quality of life within cities. To design and administer code policies and programs effectively, the code-related information, such as property owner records, building plans, and the history and status of violations, is necessary. Moreover, such information can become important sources of information for stainable urban planning, land use controls, and business opportunities, when combined with other social, economic, and geographic data. Thus, we examine two research questions with a focus on non-judicial building and housing code enforcement: (1) how do local governments manage code enforcement information along the information lifecycle, from information acquisition to information use and preservation?; and (2) when and how does the information support decision making?

            Our analysis relies on field notes, interview scripts, and survey data collected through field research in the building and code departments in four city governments in NY. This study employs a multi-method research strategy to analyze the data: specifically, content analysis and statistical methods.

            This study contributes to the literature on government information management, information sharing, collaboration, and coordination for improved decision making in government organizations. In particular, we apply the socio-technical approach to government information management to the setting, code enforcement, which has not been addressed in literature. In addition, this study extends the focus of the literature on evidence-based decision making in the public sector from policy- and program-level decisions (e.g., Mele et al., 2013; Sanderson, 2002) to case-level decisions. It also shows that the administrative data collected as a result of government organizations’ day-to-day operations do not play a critical role only in evidence-informed administration but also in better program- and policy-level decisions. We believe that these lessons may help scholar and government practitioners to start a conversation about new ways to use empirical data from diverse sources as evidence for decision making across policy domains and levels of government.