NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCILS - It is common for businesses to survey their customers, reward them for feedback, and make changes to keep their customers happy.
Governmental agencies don’t do any of that primarily because they have a monopoly on the services they provide. Who else will issue you a building permit, pick up your trash, answer your emergency calls, etc.?
But good governments don’t do just the minimum. They are constantly “kicking the tires” and looking for better ways to serve the public.
Neighborhood councils could play a major role in making Los Angeles “the Nordstrom of city governments.” The councils could begin right in their own backyards.
Here’s how it could work:
A few neighborhood council leaders would meet with the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) and generate a list of duties that the department is supposed to perform according to the regulations (the City Charter, the ordinances, and the Plan for a Citywide System of Neighborhood Councils). That’s the easy part.
To that would be added goals, objectives, and duties that the neighborhood councils and the department feel the department should be expected to accomplish that aren’t in the regulations.
With the completed list in hand, each neighborhood council board would be encouraged to meet, discuss, and rate how well DONE has performed in each area.
At the same time, DONE would evaluate itself. And the third part would be an invitation for anyone from the public to complete their own evaluation online or in writing.
Therefore, DONE would be evaluated from within and from the neighborhood councils they serve.
There could be three possible results:
- All three evaluations would identify areas where improvements were clearly needed. The neighborhood councils would continue to monitor and report on the improvement efforts.
- The evaluations would differ. In this situation, the neighborhood council representatives and DONE would meet to discuss the reasons for the variations.
- All evaluations would agree the DONE is doing a good job in specific areas. In this case, DONE should commit itself to trying to improve even more.
That old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a recipe for failure. There is always room for improvement. Imagine if AT&T had stopped its research and development effort believing that their rotary phones worked just fine. Or if Apple had decided that its iPhone 3G was all the public would ever need.
If the neighborhood councils and DONE could achieve this task, they may convince the mayor or city council to have other city agencies survey their customers as well. The result would be better government, and who doesn’t want that?
(Greg Nelson is a former chief of staff to Councilman Joel Wachs and past contributor to CityWatchLA.com.)