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Mesa Hopes New Data Portal Will Tell Story Beyond The Numbers

The city of Mesa makes more than 100 data sets, on everything from police activity to tax revenue, open to the public.

City Council approved a contract Monday for Socrata, a new online platform to host the city’s information. Mesa established its first open data portal in 2016 and the website includes 130 data sets.

“We were looking for a platform that would allow us to actually tell the story and not just talk about numbers,” said Mesa Budget Director Candace Cannistraro.

For example, if you go online now, you can click into Mesa’s financials and see seven tables of tax revenue. To the untrained eye, it could be confusing.

Cannistraro says the new program will allow the city to post explanations for data online and offer multiple presentations of information such as expenditures.

“It’s not just holding the data for us as a portal, it’s allowing us to do analysis,” Cannistraro said.

The Police Department in Austin, Texas, has used Socrata to track slowing response times to emergency calls due in part to increased vacancies on the force.

The goal is to have the new system online by April.

Mariana Dale rustles up stories as a senior field correspondent based out of KJZZ’s East Valley Bureau in Tempe. She’s followed a microphone onto cattle ranches, to the Dominican Republic and many places in between. Dale believes in a story’s strength to introduce us to diverse perspectives, inspire curiosity and hold public leaders accountable for their actions. She started at KJZZ on the digital team in 2016 and still spends a lot of time thinking about how to engage with our community online. Dale has learned from stints at Arizona Public Media, The Arizona Daily Star, The Arizona Republic and as an intern at NPR’s Morning Edition in Culver City. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Dale is grateful for the mentoring of the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, the Chips Quinn Scholars program and AIR’s New Voices Scholars. A desert native, she loves spending time outside hiking, tending to her cactus and reading.