Council Briefings: Citizen Survey and Federal Stimulus Funds

This morning, the council has gotten two very informative briefings.

FIRST BRIEFING: The results of the 2009 Citizen Survey that analyzes residents’ satisfaction (or lack thereof) with a broad range of city services. High points:

Overall satisfaction with city services has improved greately during the past 2 years.
* Among 109 areas that were assessed on the City’s survey in both 2007 & 2009
– Ratings IMPROVED in 91 areas
– Ratings STAYED THE SAME in 6 areas
– Ratings DECREASED in just 12 areas
* Overall satisfaction with city services in Dallas is significantly higher than the national average

SECOND BRIEFING: An overview of the projects for which the city has requested Federal Economic Stimulus Funds.

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New Deadlines for City Service Requests

When you call 311, the city has deadlines by which departments should respond to your service request. These deadlines are called “Service Level Agreements” or SLRs.

For example, if you call 311 because there is a loose animal, the city has a self-imposed “deadline” to address the issue within 45 days. If you report graffiti on a traffic sign or signal, the city has 60 days to address it.

These deadlines are then used to let city departments know if they are meeting their deadlines (and doing a good job) or failing to meet their deadlines and need to improve.

The problem is that many of the deadlines are far beyond the average time it takes to address the issue. It’s like saying “I’m going to give myself two weeks to take out the trash. If I meet that deadline, I’ve succeeded.” Well, you typically take out the trash once a week, so you’ll always “succeed” and meet your deadline. And the fact is, you need to take out the trash every three days, not every seven days, so you need to give yourself a new deadline to reflect your goal.

The Council’s Quality of Life Committee, of which I’m vice-chair, recognized this problem and suggested that city staff come up with new SLRs or deadlines that are more reflective of how long it actually takes to get a job done. They have done so, and I’ve posted the new deadlines here.

Addressing graffiti on signs has gone from 60 days to 14 days. Dealing with loose (non-aggressive) animals has gone from 45 to 30 days.

Some of these response times are still too long, in my opinion, but there is tremendous progress. I’ve got some quibbles with a few items that have increased in time (down tree and emergency flooding has gone from 1 to 5 days), and I’ll be discussing these with staff. Overall, this is a great step.

City to Examine Improving 911/311

As part of the City’s new focus on improving customer service, the City Manager has put together a taskforce to determine how to improve the 911/311 system.

Right now, if you call 911 or 311, the same group of operators answers the call. The 911/311 system is currently under the authority of the Fire Department. The taskforce will look at organizational structure, training standards, and management issues, among other things.

The taskforce is being asked to address these issues expeditiously so that any suggested changes can be incorporated into the upcoming budget (our budget year runs from Oct. 2006 – Sept. 2007).