AMA on Data and Policy

Below are the AMA Questions and my Answers, if I missed anyone I am sorry. Yell at me on social media and I will answer.

  • Honestly there is lots of data that could be released or collected more frequently that would create positive impacts. The primary challenge IMO is there is very little capacity within local institutions to do the heavy lifting of collecting data, cleaning it and put it out in an accessible way. There are also few centralized points or portals where all of this data is housed as government silos often silo the data.
    • The other factor is that a lot of data that is collected locally is done by Provincial and Federal governments so there is a time lag where the whole province/country data needs to be sorted out before it can be released locally. In many cases they are the owners of the data collected by local institutions (School Boards, Hospitals, Public Health etc.) so it adds layers of complexity to the release of data on a regular basis.
  • One piece of data if it was release more regularly and broadly that could positively impact Windsor-Essex it would income data on our region. You could talk about poverty, income inequality, work income and salaries, government supports. If released widely enough say at a census tract level, you could then start talking about neighbourhood.
    • This is actually a piece I have been working on for a while.
  • The gold standard is real time data which is similar to what Raj Chetty et al. is using in the US through partnership deals with major banks and technology companies. Imagine if for example Interact release anonymized point of sale data at a postal code level. We are not there yet, but it could be a few years away.
  • Unfortunately, I am not optimistic. Despite the opioid crisis taking second fiddle to COVID it didn’t go away. I see two obstacles:
  • First is at a provincial level. The PCs were cool to these sites prior to COVID, although they have allowed ones that were already in process to move forward in many cases, they aren’t going to suddenly open a bunch of new ones.
    • If there is major health reform out of COVID it is likely to be in the Long Term Care space, rather than opioids.
  • Second are the continued NIMBY challenges that haven’t gone away although the courts have allowed sites to move forward.
    • Locally this will be a challenge as the logical place will be downtown where issues are most acute and visible. If it goes somewhere else, those neighbourhoods will have to be placated to a degree and it will likely end up in court meaning no matter what, we are likely years away from a site being open.
  • Frankly it is hard to say without zeroing on a single organization and doing a deep dive. Fundamentally there are different layers of transparency – legal vs expected vs open.
    • Very few don’t meet the legal thresholds. They have an AGM, do an audit, have a board.
    • The vast majority meet what are generally expected threshold of having a website that lists board members and an annual report that talks about the good work that they have accomplished etc.
    • Truly open organizations do things like voluntary disclosures on their diversity, release minutes of board meetings, post strategic plans and objectives publicly and regularly assess, evaluate and publish their organizational effectiveness.
  • CRA keeps charitable search site and the data comes from the mandatory tax filing data that charities must submit. You can search by community or organization. There are also a number of “charity watch” sites and organizations that track things like charities transparency but they aren’t tracking your local food banks, generally only larger national or regional charities are tracked.
  • The real challenge is that the general public doesn’t demand more transparency. The number of people donating to charities is declining so from the broader public perspective their connection, interest and desire for transparency from charities is less broad.
    • So a major donor can be given lots of transparency for a lot of money, while person giving $5 at an event gets an email at the end of the month.
    • Given the donors only have finite resources and tend to be attracted to certain causes, the transparency tends to be tailored to individuals donors or oversight bodies. Who will be asking questions and how can we pre-empt those questions with enough information to satisfy those quesitons.
  • Finally in the defense of many of these agencies, it takes a lot of work to be transparent. Given that many of these organizations are only funded on shoe string budgets for administrative work (not the program or services they are mandated to provide) the trade off can be framed as “we could spend X hours being transparent proactively or we could help Y more people”. This shifts the impetuous back to the individual to ask the question.
  • The same situations that apply to charities also apply in many cases to NFP, ABCs, Provincial or Federal Agencies. Do they meet minimum standards, absolutely, but until the public and/or elected officials demand a higher level of transparency it will be a patchwork with individual organizations reporting to their own standards.
  • I haven’t seen anything like this for our local community but it has been done, Councilor Holt shared a map from a US city (Nashville maybe) at one point that illustrated tax efficiency of urban areas vs suburban areas but I can’t find it. Personally I think it sounds like a Masters’ of Planning sort of project. 😉
  • From a municipality to municipality standpoint AMO has a map that shows how residential and non-residential property taxes have changed over time.
  • I did create this map for Windsor:
  • The above is from 2016 Census data with the 2015 mill rate multiplied by number of residential dwellings by Census DA and the average home value from the census in each DA. It is a crude estimate but it doesn’t point to which parts of the city contribute to the tax base.
  • The first question that I ask you is what do you mean by regional policing, because technical it already exists with Windsor providing policing in Amherstburg. Pedantics aside, I assume that you mean policing for the whole region. I put the odds about 50/50 in the next 5 years of some sort of regional force emerging.
    • The emergence of a regional force will bring all sorts of governance and oversight challenges as there are restrictions on police board sizes etc.
  • Personally I feel how Leamington goes, the rest of the region may follow.
    • Whether Windsor is successful at bidding remains to be scene as Leamington could look to Chatham-Kent to provide it’s policing as there are detachments in Tilbury and Chatham proper that are just as close if not closer than Windsor to Leamington.
    • If Leamington does go with Windsor I think you might see dominoes beginning to fall and other municipalities joining as contracts expire.
  • The Town of Essex was also looking for feedback on it’s policing service.
  • If one municipality is going to hold out it will be LaSalle being the only force not OPP for their policing services so it becomes more of contractual and timing questions around when can communities opt-out or look at different policing options.

One thought on “AMA on Data and Policy

  1. Pingback: A Few Thoughts on Week 17 | gingerpolitics

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