Mayor, city manager respond to citizen satisfaction numbers

stat-meetingFor the first time Tuesday, the mayor and city manager faced chairs they normally occupy.

City officials report monthly to them there on things like goals and progress – so-called KCstat meetings that are a key part of their data-driven government.

But in that city hall room Tuesday, the mayor, manager and staffers reported to an outside moderator and answered her questions.

Some things clearly looked good, but far from perfect.

Citizen satisfaction with overall effectiveness of city manager and appointed staff went from just 17 percent in 2010, when Manager Troy Schulte started, to 51 percent this year, with just 17 percent unsatisfied.

Satisfaction with elected officials went from 16 percent satisfied to 54 percent in the same time.

The mayor and manager credited much of it to responding to citizen survey data.

“I think for the first time we’ve been listening to what the residents want,” Schulte said.

But citizens rate as very important infrastructure concerns like sidewalks and streets, where much more work needs to be done.

Schulte said the sprawling city with a not-very-dense population has trouble meeting infrastructure expectations.

Officials have to find a way to deal with things like crumbling sidewalks and curbs, he said.

The city has never paid to fix sidewalks, leaving the expense to the property owners.

“What’s the number one thing our citizens say: Fix the sidewalks,” Schulte said, and people also downgrade the condition of streets based on the poor condition of sidewalks.

The mayor was asked about his goal of promoting education when he has no power related to the 15 school districts in the city.

He works with Turn the Page KC to help children reach 3rd grade reading capacity by 3rd grade, and has read to children in 90 schools.

That has prompted others to get involved because children who are not at that level are at risk for lifelong disadvantages and crime, James said.

He wants outrage over the many children not there, he said. “I’m going to continue to get them outraged because I get outraged every time I hear about it.”

His staff said the mayor acts to convene and connect key people and to raise the profile of the problem.

For whatever reasons, the percent of children in Kansas City elementary schools reading at level by grade 3 has increased from 46 percent in 2012 to 57 percent this year.

For the Kansas City School District to progress and prosper, James also said, stability of leadership and consistent services are key.

The district is already much better than the perception of it, he said. “There is a lot of good stuff going on.”

He also would like to see partnerships between the district and charter schools, he said.

As far as crime, James noted that the Kansas City No Violence Alliance helped cut homicides last year to the lowest level in 42 years.

Schulte demonstrated how the monthly KCstat reports can lead to collaborative low-cost efforts.

If a bus stop is a crime problem because of a line-of-sight problem, for instance, the police can notify the transportation authority and get the bus stop moved more cheaply than assigning police to watch it.

If an abandoned house has become a drug problem, police can get the city to put it on the top of the dangerous building demolition list.

“It’s that collaboration, sharing of ideas,” Schulte said.

James also said he and Schulte decided early on to attack tough problems. So city water bills ballooned to help replace a system that has long needed it. The city went ahead with streetcars, wants to extend them, and is marching into a battle to deal with an airport that is four decades old.

And now the city collects more data than ever before.

The last five years have shown that if you focus on data for decisions, Schulte said, you will get results.

They won praise for a city in good hands from moderator Rose Gill Hearn, a principal with Bloomberg Associates.

“There are great things happening in Kansas City,” she said.



One Comment

  1. Rose says:

    great piece. thanks for keeping us up-to-date

Leave a Comment