Another view on polling issue

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 6, 2004

Upon further reflection, the News-Herald may have been hasty last week in its editorial page criticism of the survey about to be conducted on behalf of the city.

As the anonymous author of the Our Opinion piece that appeared in Friday’s paper, I still believe all the points the piece made are valid, at least from the angle at which I was looking at it. Nonetheless, from a different perspective, the exercise should have some merit.

Being a cynical newsman, all I could see was elected officials spending taxpayer dollars to gauge public support for their efforts. Campaigning on the public dime, if you will, much like that slick piece that came out from city hall a few months ago touting Council’s priorities, along with all of their photographs.

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They should get billed for that one.

If a Councilman wants to know what his constituents think, he or she should go knock on doors or hire his own firm to do a survey.

Communication Director Dennis Craff noted, however, that like a business, it is beneficial for a city government and staff to know what its customers think. From Craff’s point of view, it is for the benefit of the workers in the recreation department, public works, etc. as opposed to the elected officials. So that they can take public input and perhaps do things differently if people are dissatisfied.

Customer service is such an important part of any endeavor. Unfortunately, more and more it is what businesses neglect first in the effort to improve their bottom line.

The only way to find out what kind of job you are doing, is by getting feedback from the customers you serve – whether those customers are people who buy your product, use your services or employ you. We all need it.

Craff also took issue with my contention that most people are too busy with both spouses working, soccer games, separating their garbage for the recycling truck, etc. to care doodly-squat about what City Council does anyway, so why bother?

&uot;Those are the very people we want to reach,&uot; he said. The people who show up at Council meetings and complain are just a small number.&uot;

While his argument on that was persuasive, I still think I’m right on that point.

Regardless, over the course of the next few weeks you may receive a phone call from somebody asking you how you feel about your city. If you do, please take the time to respond. It’s a rare opportunity to have your voice heard, the people who work for the city need your feedback and, after all, you’re paying for it.

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If you get the opportunity, you owe it to yourself to visit the Department of Neighborhood Development Services on the back part of the Municipal Building. I was there Friday. It’s one city department that is not neglecting its customers. With the high number of permits and what not that it issues, Neighborhood Development Services gets a lot of traffic.

With that in mind, Director David Freeman has created a comfortable place for the public to wait. I was struck when I walked in by the huge TV – I’d guess about a 40-incher – that is suspended above the counter. A computer sits in the corner for public use and vending machines are nearby as well as comfortable chairs. I wanted to know if I could get a beer and an order of chicken wings while I waited for Freeman, but they’ve not gotten to that point.

Freeman’s done a good job and has a lot to be proud of. Other departments would do well to emulate it.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611, or via e-mail at