How does one measure and monitor the "state" of a city or other municipal entity? In the 21st century one of the most efficient methods is to create "indicators" that are specifically designed to follow trends and changes in a city's development processes. "Indicators for assessing the state of a local authority" was the central theme of a JIIS conference in October, at which the Institute's researchers shared their latest findings on the subject with a hall full of mayors, CEOs, strategic directors and senior government officials.
The team, Dr. Maya Choshen, Israel Kimhi, Yair Assaf-Shapira and Michal Korach, opened the conference by saying that indicators have become a "valuable tool" used widely around the Western world. "The concept behind an indicator system is not to measure a municipality’s productivity but rather to constantly monitor and assess progress in terms of the goals and vision it has set for itself." In advance of the conference, the JIIS team published a paper describing the various approaches to preparing the indicators, their characteristics, and a host of examples. (Among the indicator topics researched to date by the JIIS team are population, education, employment, and planning and building.) The research received considerable coverage in the press, and it contributed to the lively atmosphere at the meeting where participants included top government officials and quite a number of mayors and heads of local authorities.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat concurred with the JIIS team when he stated that “if something cannot be measured, it cannot be managed.” He discussed how the Jerusalem Municipality uses indicators to attain goals. And head of the strategic unit of the Tel Aviv Municipality Tami Gavrieli showed how indicators are used for comprehensive strategic planning by City Hall, highlighting the relationship between vision and practice.
Head of the Local Authorities Division at the Interior Ministry Mordechai Cohen shared his opinion that common indicators can be used even for authorities that are extremely different, as long as they are simple and clear, and that at the same time, each local authority can develop specific indicators that are suited to its own needs.
Saleh Suleiman, head of the Bu’eine Nujeidat Council, bemoaned the problems that exist for local authorities that are defined as “weak.” They are constantly struggling between expectations and budgetary cuts and the desire to grant suitable services to their residents. He explained that the threat that councils that do not show balanced budgets will be decentralized caused those authorities to cut expenses, which meant that they were providing sub-standard services.
Raanan Dinur, former director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, led a discussion on the subject of "indicators and practice in local authorities." He noted that municipalities should not be considered as one entity, that each has its own set of unique characteristics – and these should be taken into account when looking for incentives to their progress. Moreover, there should be a law that addresses the relationship between the central and local authorities, he said, and such a law should allow room for the latters' differing features.
Meanwhile, Reuven Kogan, deputy head of the Budget Department at the Ministry of Finance, said that the ministry places great importance on the indicator of income and expenses. To this end, he said, the ministry invests great efforts in growth engines “to ensure that local authorities can attain economic independence.”
Completing the picture in municipalities, Ramla Mayor Yoel Lavi, Tel Aviv Municipality Director-General Menachem Leibe and his counterpart in Givatayim, Yoram Cohen, outlined how they employ indicators – whether it is to solve problems, measure the level of quality their municipalities provide or undertake broader urban analyses.
JIIS intends to continue to explore the topic of indicators by hosting roundtables with relevant experts and through additional research projects.