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A City That Works

In order for Kansas City to compete we must be a City That Works.

Our residents and our businesses have a choice about where the live and locate. In order to get them to choose Kansas City over our suburban competitors, like Lees Summit or Olathe, we have to offer them clean, safe streets and neighborhoods in a “City That Works.”

Unfortunately, for decades, Kansas City hasn’t done well compared to our metro area counterparts based on our annual citizen satisfaction surveys.

That is why I launched A City That Works.

The City That Works initiative is built around weekly meetings begun in February 2009. The meetings are broadcast on the city’s Channel 2. The meetings are designed to target and improve the specific services that our residents are most dissatisfied with: street maintenance, code enforcement, city communications, solid waste collection, and business climate. We discuss these areas in connection with the 311 staff and the data they collect as they hear from residents each day.

These areas were picked either because of low citizen satisfaction scores, both in relation to prior years and as compared to average ratings in other metropolitan area cities, or having a pressing need.

With the City Manager, city department directors and other city staff, we regularly shine a light on each problem area to reassure residents that action is being taken to improve services. We discuss ways in which minimum amount money will bring maximum improvement. And we coordinate our efforts with the city’s newly named performance measurement administrator who is creating a performance measurement system for all city services. The City That Works initiative has caused or helped with significant improvements in each of the areas:

  • The Public Works Department is working on a Strategic Plan to improve street maintenance.
  • The Neighborhood and Community Services Department has implemented a volunteer program for code inspectors, streamlined the code enforcement process and improved enforcement of waste tire disposal through the new tire dealer permitting process.
  • Solid waste is expanding its automatic trash collection citywide next year and moving forward on its Eco Center trash and recycling processing center with construction expected to be completed in 2012.
  • Communications is now producing a citywide newsletter to keep our residents informed about and engaged with their city government.
  • The Mayor’s Roundtable with local chambers of commerce will continue to be held periodically as a venue to hear from local businesses and discuss ways to make Kansas City a business friendly city. The city continues working on reforming its business licensing codes and setting up an on-stop shop for business licensing in the BizCare Center.
  • The recording system for the 311 Call Center is being implemented; seasonal contract employees have helped reduce the call waiting time and dramatically lessened the abandonment rate; and changes to the bulky item scheduling have freed up significant time for other calls. We’ve been effective.
Citizen satisfaction scores of 18 services areas have significantly increased. The satisfaction score of trash collection services increased from 59% in 2008 to 66% in 2010. The satisfaction with the bulky item pick-up services increased from 39% in 2010 to 47% in the first quarter of fiscal year 2011.

Street maintenance has increased from 18% in 2008 to 23% in 2010; satisfaction rate of the smoothness of city streets increased from 18% in 2008 to 22% in 2010; mowing and tree trimming along city streets and public area increased from 34% to 39%; overall cleanliness of city streets and public areas increased from 33% to 36%. These improvements and efficiencies come during three years of significant budget shortfalls -- $63 million in 2009-2010, and $80 million in 2010-2011. We have eliminated more than 500 jobs, many in these five important areas.

Those job cuts make it even more important that A City That Works continues. We need to seek out any efficiency and improvement in the way we provide services to our residents, because we know they have a choice.

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