Got a beef with the way things are run in our neighborhood?
This month, you can have the floor at one of six “Neighborhood Listening Sessions” being held by District 14 Councilperson Angela Hunt
Hunt, who’s conducting a total of 12 such session (the others were held in October) says she really wants to hear what people think.
The idea for the session, which she says will differ from the types of Town Hall meetings that residents have become used to, are “born out of desire to really hear what’s on the minds of residents and get guidance from them on priorities in the neighborhood and for the city.”
“I think so often today, politicians like to talk a lot. And I think it’s very important that we listen very closely to what our constituents are saying,” Hunt says, adding: “These are my bosses — I want to hear what they have to say and what they see as my priorities as I take on the next two years.”
Hunt says the idea to hold the sessions came to her during her campaign.
“One thing that really impressed me when I walked the neighborhoods during my campaign was that people have terrific ideas, but it’s often difficult to get politicians at city hall to listen.”
She cites the condition of city streets as an example.
In the past, Hunt says, the city has had six full-time employees who “drive around the city and grade our streets.”
According to that system, she says, “somewhere around 84 percent of our streets are considered to be in good condition. And frankly, that’s not my experience. And I think the problem is that we aren’t using objective standards.”
During her campaign, she met a man living in
who told her about his research into other cities that were using “computerized technology” to evaluate street conditions.
“So at my very first meeting [as a councilperson], I brought up his idea,” she says. “Here’s this objective, technologically based system that may not only save us money in the long run, but also provides us with more concrete data and a greater breadth of data to improve our streets.”
Hunt’s support of the idea was so strong, she says, that she was able to convince her fellow council members to include the program in the budget.
She’s hoping dozens more ideas such as that one come from her listening sessions.
“It’s just one example of the type of things I’m looking for: How can we be more efficient? What are some ideas from other cities that would work well here? We need to talk with people about how they want to get involved to make our city better.”
So far, Hunt says, her constituents have voiced two main concerns: public safety and code enforcement. She hopes to improve the former by improving police recruitment and starting a graffiti abatement pilot program modeled after similar programs in cities such as
The latter concern — code enforcement — is more of a challenge, she says, because it involves changing the way department employees operate.
The problem, she wants residents to understand, is not the 311 system.
“People often say 311 is broken. 311 works great,” Hunt says. “It’s just a call intake center, and in that sense it works really well.
“What people are really frustrated with is the lack of follow-up. They call something in, and it’s like it’s gone into a black hole. The people who answer 311 calls are routing those calls to the right department, but the problem is the department is not necessarily following up.
“It’s a quality of services issue, and the city does such a poor job in my mind of communicating with residents — of getting feedback from them and incorporating that feedback into city policy.”
She says she and other city leaders are working on ways to address those issues. A program modeled after “mystery shopper” programs has been set up to evaluate 311 responsiveness. Standardized surveys have been circulated to obtain residents’ true feelings about how the city operates. And one high-level city employee, assistant city manager Jill Jordan, has made customer service her focus.
“I think we’re moving in a good direction,” Hunt says. “But I’d like to see us move a little faster and also respond to residents faster and in a much friendlier way.”
Hunt’s listening sessions are open to anyone living in or outside of her district, although she says attendees from District 14 residents will have the opportunity to speak first.
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