In October and November of last year, I held a dozen “listening sessions” across District 14 to learn which issues our residents consider to be the most important for our city. Over 280 residents attended, representing a very diverse cross-section of Dallas. At the City Council retreat today, I presented the results of those meetings.
I asked residents for the primary issues they would like our city government to focus on. The figures below represent the percentage of attendees who believed a particular issue to be a top five priority:
|1.||89%||Crime||Reduce crime; hire more police; put more officers in neighborhoods|
|2.||63%||Economic Development||Bring more businesses to Dallas; be more business-friendly; improve Downtown|
|3.||49%||Code Enforcement||Be more responsive; enforce codes; follow up|
|4.||41%||Neighborhood Quality of Life||Improve and expand park and recreation facilities, trails, and greenspace; create compatible residential development; encourage trees and pedestrian streetscapes; support libraries and arts facilities|
|5.||37%||City Council, Get Along||Cooperate more; don’t talk too much at meetings; get on the same page; don’t have “fiefdom” mentality|
|6.||32%||Environment||Improve air quality; encourage environmental construction; promote recycling and reuse|
|7.||31%||Homeless||Get homeless off streets; reduce panhandling|
|8.||23%||Property Taxes||Valuations are too high; reduce taxes|
|9.||22%||Strategic Plan||Create a long-term plan/vision for city|
|10.||21%||Mass Transit||Make more convenient; encourage use; create connections to major hubs of activity (libraries, cultural facilities, airport, sports venues)|
While some of these results are not surprising (crime and code enforcement, for example), two stand out. First, 37% of residents believed that a top priority is for the “City Council to Get Along.” Residents expressed a real frustration with the City Council for (in their words) spending too much time fighting and not enough time working together to improve our city. Although I have learned that such infighting is not the reality at City Council, it is, sadly, the perception, and the Council must figure out ways to address this.
The second topic of particular interest is residents’ desire for the Council to have a long-term vision for our city in the form of a “Strategic Plan.” I am hopeful that the City Manager’s Action Plan and Budgeting for Outcomes approach will provide a good first step toward developing a larger vision for our city that our residents will embrace. In another blog, I will address how our strategic planning session went today.
Both of these priorities are significant because they can be addressed, in part, by the same solution: more frequent meetings among the Mayor, Councilmembers, and the Manager to discuss long-term issues. Our regular Council meetings and committee meetings do not offer us the time or forum to address more general concerns. While an annual retreat is a great opportunity to discuss long-range plans, more frequent meetings could ensure we stay “on the same page,” reduce the perception of infighting, and give us time to develop and monitor a strategic plan for our City.
I’ve also got each listening session’s top five priorities that I will post this weekend.