Stephen Goldsmith and Neil Kleiman, A New City O/S (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2017). 224 pp. $31.99 (Paper), ISBN: 9780815732860

AuthorWilliam B. Eimicke
Date01 May 2019
Published date01 May 2019
450 Public Administration Review May | J une 2 019
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 79, Iss. 3, pp. 450–452. © 2019 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
DOI: 10.1111/puar.13060.
Reviewed by: William B. Eimicke
Columbia University
Stephen Goldsmith and Neil Kleiman, A New City O/S
(Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2017). 224 pp.
$31.99 (Paper), ISBN: 9780815732860
Frustrated by the lack of innovation and poor
performance of the U.S. federal government
in the 1980s, David Osborne and Ted
Gaebler wrote a book about entrepreneurial and
effective local governments across America. Their
Reinventing Government (1993) became a national
bestseller, a playbook for the Clinton–Gore
National Performance Review reorganization of
the federal government, and a viable alternative
to the privatization movement. The book was
also quite controversial in the academic field of
public administration because it was interpreted as
advocating that government be run like a private
business. Goldsmith and Kleiman’s A New City O/S
comes at a time where many citizens and experts find
the performance of the federal government sadly
lacking, and the authors, similar to Osborne and
Gaebler, find many examples of innovative, effective
problem-solving at the municipal level, which they
call “distributed governance” (p. 2).
Using examples from New York City, Memphis,
Louisville, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Atlanta,
Chicago, Los Angeles, and Kansas City, among
others, the authors construct and advocate for a new
distributed operating system for local governance that
encompasses technology, outreach, engagement of
citizens, and a wide range of stakeholders, including
private and nonprofit partners, universities, and
foundations. In many respects, this construct evolves
from two previous works by Goldsmith, Governing
by Network (with William D. Eggers, 2004) and
The Responsive City (with Susan P. Crawford, 2014),
and builds on the influential research and writings
of Donald Kettl and John Dilulio. Goldsmith and
Kleiman show how modern technology enables
government to be more open, transparent, democratic,
and holistic as it develops a strategic plan, determines
its priorities, chooses the appropriate problem-
solving methodology (more frequently a cross-sector
partnership), creates key performance indicators, and
modifies standard operating procedures to improve
Each chapter of the book ends with a very useful
summary of the key points, potential pitfalls,
recommendations, and examples, making it
very user friendly as a textbook for courses on
management, innovation, city management, cross-
sector partnerships, or even social impact. Chapter 1
lays out the broad outlines on what the new reality
could become using New York City’s massive Pre-K
for Everyone initiative. Enabled by technology, the
chapter also makes it clear that the City government
continues to have a primary responsibility to set clear
safety regulations, standard curricula, select qualified
public and private providers, and do all of these
activities while maximizing parental input and choice.
Chapter 2 argues that we have entered into a new
era of municipal governance innovation fueled by
big data and analytics, cross-sector partnerships, and
philanthropic investments. The chapter places this
wave of innovation in the context of the New Public
Management (NPM), suggesting that the new O/S
fosters doing more with more instead of more with
less. Chapter 3 puts the user experience (UX) at
the center of the new O/S and illustrates what this
means with examples from Pittsburgh (open data and
mapping by community) and New Orleans (using
data to arrive at more equitable distribution of public
goods and services).
The most compelling case for the new O/S is Chapter
4, which focuses on how new technology and big data
and analytics is enabling government to better identify
and calculate risk in carrying out its regulatory
responsibility, thereby securing better outcomes for
the public and saving time and money. The chapter
provides specific examples of how Atlanta significantly
reduced wait times and doubled customer satisfaction
in building permit processing in just 12 months.
The authors also detail how Chicago used data
analytics to prioritize health inspections of higher risk
locations, similar to what New York City has done
with its preventive Fire Department of New York City
(FDNY) building inspection innovation.
William B. Eimicke is professor of
the practice of international and public
affairs at Columbia University’s School
of International and Public Affairs, where
he teaches classes on management,
innovation, and policy analysis and is the
founding director of the Picker Center for
Executive Education. He served as Deputy
Fire Commissioner for New York City and
was New York State’s housing “czar.” He
previously served on the editorial board for
the Public Administration Review and
has coauthored six books on management
and numerous articles on public
administration and public policy, the most
recent being Social Value Investing:
A Management Framework for
Effective Partnerships, with Howard W.
Buffett (Columbia University Press, 2018).
E-mail:; wbe1@

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