Saturday, December 31, 2005

Enclave's Official 2005 Best And Worst Rankings Of Metro Nashville Services To Neighborhoods

I spent a great deal of time in 2005 corresponding with various Metro departments on various neighborhood problems. I gleaned a wealth of experience and knowledge that became the grist for reflecting and writing volumes to Enclave on the quality of services that those departments provided. So without further adieu, I give you:

Enclave's Official 2005 Best and Worst Rankings of Metro Nashville Services To Neighborhoods


1. Metro Police -- They have been generally responsive to calls and requests to increase patrols. Cops have attended almost all of the Salemtown Neighbors association meetings, giving crime reports and answering lots of member questions. Their leadership also assigned the ever-popular horse patrols to escort Salemtown Neighbors during our Night Out Against Crime walk in August.

2. Sign Department -- Sign Department employees not only put up neighborhood watch signs around Salemtown where they were requested in July, but they also repaired or replaced every vandalized traffic sign in the neighborhood in the process. They encouraged neighbors to call Public Works anytime a sign is vandalized and that they would be there the next day. A couple of weeks ago I reported that one of the neighborhood watch signs had been knocked down; sure enough it was back up the next day. Great service.

3. Parks Department -- These folks keep Morgan Park looking outstanding, given the transitional neighborhood in which it sits. When the MP Community Center was hit with graffiti last winter, I called to report it to Parks. Within 24 hours Parks employees came out with sand blasters and paint. They removed the graffiti and touched up. I am convinced that the quick repair is the reason why we have not seen more incidents since.

4. Public Works -- They clean up other people's messes without the bureaucratic runaround. They cleaned up illegally dumped tires when the Health Department wasn't responding. They cleaned up the mess created when the Recycling Program's pick-up employees dumped unrecyclables out of S-town recycling carts and into the alleys. They have been one of the more reliable government services. One exception was a streetlight repair inspector who gave me some grief.

5. Neighborhood Watch Program -- It helped us publicize that we were keeping an eye on the neighborhood and coordinating calls to the police. Thanks to budget cuts, the same opportunity no longer exists for other neighborhoods.

6. Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods -- They provided support and advice for getting our neighborhood association up and running. They generally provided important contacts and coordination whenever getting a response from departments was otherwise difficult. Their staff makes special efforts to assist at any turn. Their one significant mistake was contributing to the creation of two associations in Salemtown by telling one resident that he was the association president before any neighborhood association was ever formed.


Metro Water Services -- They stunk up the place in 2005. But they are working on what seems to be a good alternative with a greenway. The word on the street is that Sewer Repair workers may not be trustworthy.

Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency -- They completely cleaned up a dumpy MDHA rental property immediately after we complained, but they tend to wait for complaints before cleaning up. They are coordinating a Salemtown community block grant that should enhance the quality of life here. However, they could be turning a blind eye to illegal behavior in their Section 8 properties.


6. Health Department -- Despite all of the communications and warnings to Nashvillians about West Nile Virus spreading when water collected in old tires, Health Department officials seemed basically unconcerned about illegally dumped tires reported to them early in May. After initial responses from the Health Department they stopped responding altogether. The tires only got picked up after News 2 ran 2 stories on them. The second story included a Neil Orne phone call to the Mayor's office. Thanks to the mainstream news publicity, Metro picked up the tires at the end of May. It wasn't the Health Department that took responsibility for the clean-up as far as I know.

5. Recycling Program -- Curby dropped trashy, used recycling carts with no educational materials into Salemtown last winter. Curby promised a neighborhood-wide, door-to-door educational program on recycling a few days later when I complained. Curby never followed though on that promise. Curby pick-up employees didn't pick up, but threw some unrecyclables into the alleys right in front of me. Curby hasn't picked up a couple of recyclable plastic bottles in my cart. Curby plainly does not work.

4. Metro Codes -- They gave me the bureaucratic runaround after I reported furniture dumped. I was told that an inspector had surveyed the site after a previous complaint and declared the "case closed." When I suggested that this could be a regular dumping ground and that the latest furniture was dumped after the inspector's visit, the Codes official referred me to the Health Department, since the dumped items might actually be in the alley, and not on the property (as if she could tell). I e-mailed her pictures of the furniture, which seemed to prompt her to send out the inspector again. That was March 23, 2005. Two months later, I sat down to write the story on Enclave. The furniture was still there and joined by a bunch of other dumped junk, which can all be seen in pictures with that story. Codes never responded to my complaints.

3. Metro Action Commission -- They had to give the State of Tennessee back $98,000 in federal aid designated for payment of utility bills of the needy because they failed to meet a June deadline. Their unwillingness to keep a database or list of people needing help seems to lead to long lines down the sidewalk, which occurred in the cold this week as 100 people were waiting--some for hours--for MAC to open at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday. To add insult to injury, MAC closed the line at 8:30 a.m. and turned people away telling them to call back at 2:00 p.m. Perhaps if Executive Director Cynthia Croom had to stand out in the cold a little while before getting in at 8:00, she might find a better way.

2. Customer Care -- Outside of quick calls confirming receipt of e-mails, I have received very little help from Metro's Customer Care when I identified problems in the neighborhood. I usually have to go straight to a department to get things accomplished. I have no idea what good they serve beyond front-line screening of calls to give Metro officials a heads up. "Customer Care" seems to be a misnomer. Example: I contacted Customer Care last winter about stray dogs in Salemtown. After weeks of not getting any response from Animal Control, I contacted Animal Control myself and wondered why Customer Care even exists.

1. Animal Control--The runaway winner for service unbecoming to service providers. I'm exempting the animal control officers, because they have been very helpful once I could get someone to send them out. The name of the game with Animal Control is "waiting." I waited a week after I initially contacted them about strays in January before going straight to the Director of Health Services to complain, which got some response. Then, in February, an AC dispatcher put me on hold for 45 minutes. In August, an AC dispatcher basically told me that she did not know when she could send an officer out since none of the strays I was reporting to her had bitten anyone. In December, I waited 5 minutes for an AC dispatcher to pick up in order to put me on hold, and then I waited 15 more minutes on hold before some passer-by picked up the phone and told me that there were no dispatchers in the room. I've met no stray dog as vicious as the waiting game that Animal Control plays.

There you have it: from the thoroughbreds to the dogs. Metro government has given me a lot to praise and a lot to criticize in 2005. Let's see what they have in store for us in 2006.

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