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The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University today announced the appointment of Somerville, Massachusetts Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone as a senior fellow affiliated with the Ash Center. Curtatone’s non-stipendiary appointment represents a continuation of a strong collaboration between the Ash Center and the City of Somerville to strengthen and promote innovative ideas in city government.
“Mayor Curtatone’s appointment will further enhance the work between the City of Somerville and the Ash Center, as well as continue to provide a unique experience for Harvard Kennedy School students to learn about and contribute to government innovation first hand,” said Ash Center Director Tony Saich.
A graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Mid-Career Master in Public Administration (MC/MPA) program, Curtatone was inaugurated to a historic sixth term as Mayor of the City of Somerville on January 2, 2014. During his tenure in office, Curtatone has been widely recognized as a leader in implementing innovative governance strategies, including the development of the city’s much lauded SomerStat program, which harnesses data to evaluate, improve and increase the efficiency of city services. After inheriting a government in fiscal crisis, Curtatone used data-driven management to stabilize city finances while expanding services and earning the City its highest ever bond rating of Aa2. Under Curtatone’s leadership, Somerville has earned regional and national distinctions including the designation by The Boston Globe as “the best-run city in Massachusetts,” by America's Promise Alliance as one of the "100 Best Communities for Youth" in the nation, and by the National Civic League as a winner of the prestigious "All America City" competition.
Under Curtatone, the Somerville Public Schools have also seen extraordinary MCAS growth scores, long-stalled transit-oriented smart growth projects are now underway, and a transformation of the city’s pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure has earned the city status as one of the most walkable and bikeable cities in the nation. The City’s “Happiness Survey” is the first municipal wellbeing survey in the nation. In 2006 Somerville became the first city in the nation to couple a 311 constituent service center with Connect CTY mass notification technology, and his administration has also earned national recognition for its “Shape Up Somerville” healthy living and anti-obesity program, which has been credited with inspiring First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative. Curtatone is the Chairperson of the Metropolitan Mayors Association and past president of the Massachusetts Mayor’s Association.
For the past 25 years, the Ash Center has sponsored the Innovations in American Government Awards Program, the nation’s preeminent program devoted to recognizing and promoting excellence and creativity in the public sector. The program highlights exemplary models of government innovation and advances efforts to address the nation's most pressing public concerns. Since its inception in 1985, the Program has received over 27,000 applications and recognized nearly 500 government initiatives, including Comstat and Citistat, data driven innovations in New York and Baltimore that helped inspire SomerStat.
In the past, HKS students have worked directly with the Mayor’s Office to improve the delivery of public services in Somerville. Under this model, the city is able to both harness the dedicated time and energy of HKS students as well as the cutting edge approaches being taught in the classroom—while students learn from innovative leaders like Curtatone and his staff on how best to apply what they have been taught to make government better for citizens.
“The opportunity for our students to be involved firsthand in government innovation is incredibly valuable, said HKS Dean David Ellwood.” We appreciate the cooperation and involvement of Mayor Curtatone and his entire team.”
As a fellow, Curtatone will assist the Ash Center in its efforts to expand its applied research and education efforts to a number of other medium-sized cities in Massachusetts. Curtatone will work with the Center's faculty to identify additional cities in Massachusetts with whom the Center can leverage its considerable expertise and resources to promote innovative governance solutions as well as to develop new experiential learning opportunities for HKS students.
“Somerville’s many collaborative projects with the Ash Center have contributed significantly to our efforts to bring the most effective and innovative strategies to our City, and I am honored to have this opportunity to bring these resources to more cities in the Commonwealth,” said Curtatone. “As Washington’s stalemate has deepened, the role of cities in driving change and progress has grown increasingly important, which makes the need for academic and municipal partnerships and the steady exchange of ideas and insights that this fellowship will foster all the more critical.”
Specifically, the Center, with Curtatone's assistance, intends to craft new programs in which students and faculty will assist cities in adopting award-winning government innovations, which in turn will facilitate learning within and between municipal organizations and the academic community. In addition to providing students with a unique learning experience in the field, these programs will aid local governments by improving their performances—and the comparative analysis of these programs will generate critical insights into the conditions under which innovations in government can be transferred and scaled up between different municipal organizations.