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Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team focusing on solutions to urban challenges

Initiatives target recycling, rezoning, animal services, EMS, abandoned properties

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (May 30, 2012) — A special team of city employees is hard at work on five projects that combine data and innovative approaches to urban challenges, Mayor Greg Fischer announced today. The projects range from reducing the number of vacant and abandoned properties in Louisville to expanding recycling and keeping waste out of the city landfill.

The work of the six-member Innovation Delivery Team is being funded by a $4.8 million grant Louisville was awarded last year by Bloomberg Philanthropies — to help bring innovation and breakthrough ideas to improve city services. Louisville was one of five large cities to receive a grant.

“The work of these teams is an essential part of our ongoing effort to bring innovation, efficiency and improved services to our customers,” Fischer said. “Each of these five projects will make a real difference to our city and can lead to long-term systemic changes.”

The five projects were identified and shaped starting with city department heads who competed and proposed ideas for the team to focus on. The mayor was presented with more than 40 ideas which were prioritized using factors such as impact on the community and innovative solutions. The Innovation Delivery Team researched best practices in other cities and national experts were brought to Louisville along with city officials from San Francisco, Seattle and Portland to brainstorm innovative approaches.

The Innovation Delivery Team projects are:
• Make Louisville more “green” by increasing recycling and diverting solid waste from the city landfill – Through expanded city recycling services, new ordinances and increased public awareness this project will target a long-term increase in both residential and commercial recycling while also reducing the amount of bulk waste going into the landfill. One of the first action steps will be to distribute larger, 95-gallon recycling carts on two selected routes in the Urban Services District. Selling material to recyclers is better financially than paying to dump it at the landfill, with the added benefit of a more sustainable future. Goal: increase recycling 25 percent within three years and divert 90 percent of solid waste from the landfill in 30 years.

• Reducing the number of low severity medical 911 calls and related EMS runs – Thousands of calls yearly to 911 and resulting EMS runs involve situations that are not medically severe. This has the potential to divert resources away from medical emergencies and is a costly burden to the city’s emergency response system. Louisville is already a leader in the nation by being the first U.S. city to adopt PSIAM – a system that triages low-severity 911 calls to more appropriate forms of care than emergency rooms. The project calls for expanding PSIAM triage capacity, providing an alternative phone number to 911 for low-severity patients, helping match recidivist low-severity 911 callers with more sustainable sources of patient care, and providing a means of alternate transport to decrease non-emergency ambulance usage. Goal: eliminate or redirect 30 percent of low-severity medical 911 calls within three years.

• Reducing the number of vacant/abandoned properties – The more than 1,200 vacant and abandoned properties in Louisville negatively impact property values and create public safety and health issues. To quickly impact the problem, legal action will be taken to foreclose on 100 of the most market-desirable properties, followed by 200 additional properties within the next two years. Once the city acquires the properties, they will be converted to productive use by putting the properties into the hands of persons who will improve and restore them, creating urban gardens or urban forests, etc. Other action steps will include helping connect at-risk property owners with existing resources. Goal: reduce the number of abandoned properties by 40 percent within three years, 67 percent in five years.

• Increasing Metro Animal Services live release rate of healthy, adoptable animals – The rising homeless pet population creates a huge challenge for Animal Services, which receives more than 12,000 animals yearly. Through greater use of technology and stronger partnerships with vets and advocacy and rescue groups, the number of pets coming into Animal Services will be reduced while pets being returned to owners and adopted by new owners will increase. Goal: increase the live placement rate to the national “best practices” standard of 90 percent within five years.

• Implementing a friendlier, faster, more efficient rezoning process – The current process takes too long and is not customer friendly, hampering new businesses from starting up and making it difficult for residents to fully participate in neighborhood and community development. Action steps will include creating a “fast track” system to speed simple rezoning cases, improving public notice of rezoning cases and increased use of technology – such as allowing citizens to submit and pay for zoning applications online. Goal: reduce the average time to complete rezoning while also raising customer satisfaction.

The members of the Innovation Delivery Team, led by Director Margaret Handmaker, are funded for three years by the $4.8 million Bloomberg Philanthropies grant. They are:

• Patti Birk, the Performance Management Lead. As a CPA and MBA, Patti brings many business disciplines to the IDT after spending over 20 years in private industry as a finance and business operations professional.

• Julienne Chen, a project manager for the IDT, will work on the regional economic development, recycling and rezoning projects. She has a background in urban planning (B.S. Cornell University and M.S. University of Amsterdam), and has focused on the development of high quality places through her experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors.

• Daniel Makela, a Bloomberg Innovation Delivery Fellow who works across all five projects and also liaises with the other four grant cities. A Louisville native, he has a background in city planning and economics and formerly worked in the Louisville Metro Economic Development Department.

• Jean Nelson, the project manager for the EMS and Vacant and Abandoned Properties projects. Prior to joining the IDT, she spent nine years at Humana, where she worked in the Innovation Center, specializing in project management, process engineering and the implementation of new ideas.

• Rhonda Willard, program manager for the Recycling and Metro Animal Services projects. She is a 20-year veteran project manager from Frankfort who joined Metro in January. She uses a process-focused approach to manage projects and specializes in programs that involve re-engineering/transformation/implementation.

Louisville is one of five cities to receive an Innovation Delivery Team grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Project, Innovation Delivery Team grants were also awarded to Atlanta, Chicago, Memphis and New Orleans. Through these investments, Bloomberg Philanthropies seeks to both support grantee cities to achieve impact as well as establish a model that can be used by mayors anywhere to develop and drive innovation over time.