What is it you want to know, and where do you go to find the answer?
When you want to know what other cities are doing to make funds go farther or to solve personnel problems, or what technology is providing citizens with additional safety and security, here at The Municipal we certainly hope you’ll come to us. We strive to inform you about a variety of topics, products, people and situations that we think will help you serve your community’s citizens more effectively.
To obtain that relevant information, our reporters use many of the same methods that are available to Joe Q. Public. We start by making phone calls and checking websites for general ideas and contact information.
As part of my research for this month’s edition, I typed the phrase “(city) parks and recreation” into Google’s search engine. I replaced (city) with several different municipalities.
When I replaced it with “Lexington,” I learned immediately that the Lexington, Ky., parks department coordinates an active senior adult program and that basic horsemanship classes for kids began in March.
I changed “Lexington” to “Rockford,” and learned in less than 30 seconds that softball and soccer programs would take place this summer in that Illinois community, and that there’s a dog park I might be able to treat the family mutt Motley to if I ever decided to visit. I clicked on the “Rockford Park District” home page, and quickly downloaded a 90-page guide to all the things residents and visitors can join with others and have fun doing during this mild spring and the upcoming summer season.
Municipalities like Lexington and Rockford facilitate physically healthy communities, recreation, educational opportunities and community harmony by putting information about their programming opportunities within easy reach. Unfortunately, though, I also came across a couple of cities from which getting basic community programming information is next to impossible.
One of them deferred my phone calls to eight different people in five different departments. Finally, on my eighth call, I reached someone who could tell me about youth day camps and sports leagues. No one I reached in the bizarrely-fragmented parks and recreation or tangent city departments could tell me what activities and programs were available to local residents and visitors who were looking for something to do this summer. The parks department receptionist insisted that the staff only handle park maintenance and did no programming. Another representative of the city said that the only way for citizens to be informed about public programming was to read an announcement about the event that the events sponsoring group might or might not run in the newspaper.
Three days after my first phone call, I still didn’t know if the city offered summer swim lessons, open volleyball leagues, Fourth of July fireworks or had a bike path. That city’s now on my new list of Places Not to Go to on Summer Vacation Unless I Absolutely Have to. It’s just too much work.
If you haven’t Googled your own city to find out how easy it is to get information about opportunities for recreation, please do. It might lend a clue as to why soccer league enrollment is declining, or why the public pool’s revenue continues to slide. At the very least, can your parks and recreation department refer callers to the correct person with information about public programs, if it’s not them? Have you ever called from home, or had your brother call, to test that theory?
To paraphrase the movie “Field of Dreams,” get the word out and they will come. Here’s to a great summer.