City Signal Infrastructure Loan

A City Signal Infrastructure Loan program is championed by the Civic Efficiency Group. This would complement existing city infrastructure loan programs, but would focus firmly on signal infrastructure:
  • radio and wireless spectrum, and use of TV in emergencies
  • telephone system reliability including cell phone network
  • computer network reliability including telework support
  • 311 service based on distributed teleworkers
  • electronically augmented physical meeting rooms and offices


To find the highest-ROI projects, CEG proposed to form a Civic Efficiency Collaborative - similar to the US Government Open Code Collaborative but focused on higher level quality management in government and control of all instructional capital used in government itself:

It would work towards transparent municipalities and integrate continuous municipal performance audit with conventional municipal performance audit. CEG's seven-step program to move management accounting for cities towards full cost accounting by 2012, everywhere in North America, was proposed as the most cost-effective place to start any city infrastructure loan program, since, "the patient can't tell you where they hurt until they HAVE a nervous system that works."

Working laterally with other cities on civic best practice, governance best practice and e-government and e-democracy initiatives has very great and obvious advantages, notably in reducing risk to near zero, since every city has done something innovative, and every other city can copy it without additional risk:

start with CitiStat-like accountability sessions

A city-wide management program subject to a continuous audit was pioneered by Baltimore CitiStat, a famous program in Maryland. CitiStat was, and continues to be, so effective in generating savings that no grant money was ever required to implement it, nor were any of the intangible benefits required to be quantified - the program paid for itself by measurable benefits alone - 45 to 1 in its first year - though the intangible benefits were also very significant.

Extensive studies by Kennedy School of Government and other credible sources, such as a UK Local Democracy study recently completed by DoWire, led to the most exhaustive list yet of its potentials.

The key feature of CitiStat is not its off-the-shelf software nor ordinary projector-enhanced meeting rooms, but, the accountability sessions in which statistics are put up for review by staff and persistent questioning is led by the Baltimore Deputy Mayor Michael Enright. Extensions of the system to support customer service requests, that are required for 311 service anyway, energy audits, or more extensive reports on crime prevention and even emergency preparedness can be added to this framework.

The initial cost of the program was well under $500,000 - even in a large city it could start for under $1,000,000.

for cities over 100,000

It is this model that CEG proposes be adopted by all cities.

This proposal is intended for cities or regions over 100,000 people in size. It is not impossible that similar programs could be created for a smaller urban region, set of cooperating small towns or a less populated region. However, that is not this proposal - see rural infrastructure loans for a program to address rural needs.

The following is the Canadian version of this program as advocated in an open letter to Ralph Goodale by the Civic Efficiency Group and as detailed in the Canadian Civic Efficiency Collaborative outline - see separate articles, and STATUS below for a report on progress in this project.

setting standards

The Canadian federal government should set national municipal infrastructure standards (extending those that already exist, e.g. the FCM infra program) and make many municipal infrastructure loans. These will be paid back from quantifiable benefits of the programs, identified by the CitiStat management software. Surplus benefits, both tangible and intangible, accrue to the municipalities, but the federal government has more money to make further loans.

If there are no savings the loan will not be paid back but will be deemed to have satisfied some federal mandate, e.g. emergency preparedness, New Deal for Cities, the municipal infrastructure deficit. However, requiring applicants to follow an already proven regime for municipal management, leaves no practical likelihood of an unpayable loan. For further certainty, however, the federal goverment could also take this opportunity to require Municipal Performance Audits such as the US GAO and high reliability and training standards such as US FEMA which applies in the United States. This would bring Canadian municipal performance up to par with the best run American cities. Fully transparent municipalities could follow, and Canadian cities could lead the OECD in this regard, if FCM, PSAB and PSEPC could all be coordinated to agree on a single set of accounting and equipment rules.


major benefits to the bottom line for municipalities

Rather than rely simply on a direct federal grant, the CEG proposed that federal funds be made available to upgrade and improve city infrastructure, in particular, signal infrastructure, that affected other aspects of its total cost of operations. The Baltimore CitStat program for instance has proven that it is possible, in a city of about 600,000 people, to

These benefits dwarf the initial startup costs of under US$300,000.

better operations

In addition the Civic Efficiency Group has estimated other benefits from making signal infrastructure upgrades to avoid unscheduled downtime and other total cost of operations related to computers. See en: ceg: Toronto operations. Additional benefits, mostly from boot image control:

These are normally calculated as Total Cost of Ownership - between 4x to 6x acquisition/year. In addition there are more operations costs:

When all are added up, the Total Cost of Operations is about 8x to 12x the aquisition costs per year. This can be cut roughly in half by reusable and modular hardware with a longer lifecycle. Extending the lifecycle of gear is one of the
most commonly recommended ways to reduce Total Cost of Operations -


emergency preparedness

Better emergency preparedness is one of the major benefits of this proposal - see the proposal that caused the Toronto eCity committee to expand its mandate. In terms expressed by CitiState, it is possible to
  • reduce city's potential liability costs through proactive risk assessment and management:
    • Civil Defense and Critical Infrastructure protection
    • Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
    • Public Health and minimizing exposure of key staff in medical emergency
    • Kyoto commitments that imply reducing greenhouse gases by telework that
    • replaces commuting, low-energy-use equipment which might also be mobile
    • avoids federal liability from collateral damage to industries, e.g. tourism in SARS crisis



Both the emergency preparedness and routine operations benefits can be realized mostly by considering both sets of benefits at once in setting standards, e.g. using single board computers such as the green bay box. A detailed list of standards will be presented to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities at its FCM AGM, 2005-06-02 in St. John's, NL, US. See the CEG proposal to be sent to FCM.

accounting reform

Some accounting reform is also required to create additional PSAB standards to deal with the categories as mentioned above, so that the federal government can be repaid from the operational savings.


The City Signal Infrastructure Loan program was proposed by the Civic Efficiency Group to Canadian Minister of State for Communities and Infrastructure John Godfrey in a meeting on December 21, 2004.

It was re-presented as a part of the New Deal for Cities that the Government of Canada had proposed via the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which included Canadian federal gasoline tax transfers to municipal government. It is also being proposed to the Green Budget Coalition as part of the Canadian federal budget, 2005