West Hollywood announced that its employees have raised $42k for AIDS Project Los Angeles. Can you imagine that happening in Beverly Hills? We don’t generally see our workers come together for a good cause, or even to support the city that employees them. Why? Few who work here live here. Fewer than 0.3% of local residents who applied for a city job were hired over the past three years. And policies like ‘flex time,’ 4-day workweeks, and generous vacation time encourage employees to make their home elsewhere. (Have you ever seen a City Hall staffer in a coffee shop or restaurant off-hours? We haven’t.) City workers from Thousand Oaks and Santa Clarita aren’t likely to make the welfare of our city an extra-curricular concern. But it seems different in West Hollywood.
We’re simply not getting the best from our staff. Anyone who works with City Hall on a regular basis will tell you that. Enthusiasm is low, dedication is scarce, and across departments imagination is practically non-existent. We’re not progressing like other cities: where they integrate new modes of mobility on city streets and make real strides toward sustainability, we only talk the talk. Calls for safer streets are met with an impassive shrug, and why not? Staff can wait us out. Career tenure and generous compensation offer no incentive to work smarter or harder. Where’s the management vision that will take us into the 21st century? Continue reading
Cities embrace social media to push information out to stakeholders and to engage residents in city business. We’ve heard about the promise of e-Government; even if it’s not really here yet, platforms like Twitter and Facebook are the new water cooler and town square (respectively). They are the building blocks of two-way communication between the people and those who work on our behalf.
Since Beverly Hills first hopped on to the social sharing bandwagon (back in January of 2010 – a latecomer), it surely took its time deploying social media to increase engagement. Until last week, the city was unable to complete work on its social media page (perennially ‘under construction’ with a half-finished table of links). Today the city’s social page is complete.
Let’s hope this marks the beginning of a new era for Beverly Hills. It can take a page out of the City of Santa Monica playbook; it is the gold standard for public engagement (and social sharing, with no fewer than 11 city-operated Twitter accounts and 20 Facebook pages). I believe that Santa Monica means it when it says, “Let’s be friends…..We want to connect with you.” Beverly Hills, on the other hand, broadcasts a very different message. Too often, it seems to say, ‘We’re not really that interested in hearing from you.’
With capable staff, a deep bench of high-capacity community Commissioners and volunteers, and technology know-how, shouldn’t Beverly Hills be a leader in communicating with residents? The difference between a cutting-edge city (Santa Monica) and our own retro burgh could not be clearer.
Santa Monica invites residents to communicate problems directly to the city. The new ‘GORequest’ mobile app (for iPhone and Android) allows for a quick snapshot of the problem then it routes the image and information to the correct department. What’s more, that city is recognized as a municipal leader in technology. And this year it won a ‘Top 25 Innovations in Government’ from Harvard’s Kennedy School for a pioneering broadband network it calls Santa Monica City Net. All great accomplishments for a great city.
Beverly Hills city government, by contrast, has its work cut out for it if it wants to catch up. The city’s e-noticing system is serviceable (sign up and you will get notices) and rumor has it that the city is working on a mobile app. That’s all good. Beyond that, though, and our city’s communication practices fall down.
The website is terribly dated. The public’s email contact system (aka Comcate) is yesterday’s technology at best. Worse, though, it won’t let you attach a file or identify a particular city staffer or department head to contact. It actually discourages communication with city officials. The In Focus online newsletter, too, is a missed opportunity. It is all fluff and even fails to invite residents to become involved in city business.
Shouldn’t the objective of these tools be to increase engagement? Instead, they seem to be a part of a rearguard action to merely fix problems. Only after receiving a complaint is a change made. (That’s how the social page was finally completed). That’s not proactive. Nor is it satisfactory. Beverly Hills pays two administrators, a webmaster, and a contractor handsomely to maintain our online services, yet one look at the website will take you back to the year 2000. Why don’t we have a state-of-the-art site like Santa Monica?
I call that a communications #FAIL.
(If you want to read more about BH governance, tune into my Patch column where I touch on these and other aspects of Beverly Hills that would benefit from a refresh.)
This week we at Better Bike celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Ad-Hoc Bike Plan Update Committee’s formation. Since this committee has met in public only one time and made uncertain progress over the past year on bike-friendly improvements, we think it’s time we dropped in to share our observations and concerns. You can read about it in our open letter to the Traffic & Parking Commission. It meets tomorrow at 9am at Beverly Hills City Hall. Please join us if you want to celebrate. Continue reading
The two newspapers that cover the Beverly Hills market won’t ever be confused with rough-and-tumble journalism. Equal parts local news, City Hall mouthpiece, society pages, and venue for obligatory publication of official announcements, both the Beverly Hills Courier and the Beverly Hills Weekly seem to hew to a winning formula: offer something for everyone, make no waves, and most important, publish a tangible product and drop it on every doorstep, gratis. When the Courier succeeded in wresting public salary data for municipal employees and published it over two weeks (complete with benefits accorded), there was something of a media scrum as both local papers chimed in on what’s called the ‘salary scandal.’ Continue reading