City Government as Customer Service

I have a tragically idealized view of working in government. Some say it’s because I’m too young to be jaded, but I like to believe it’s because I was raised on the TV show The West Wing. If you haven’t seen the show (stop reading this and go watch all seven seasons on Netflix!), it’s about a bunch of whip smart do-gooders working for an idealistic President and actually making the world a better place.

With that as my introduction to politics and government, I found my way to City Hall, working for Vice Mayor David Mann. As a new Northside resident, I’ve been asked to write from time to time for the Northsider about what’s happening at City Hall. But before I jump into updates on the day-to-day of city life and projects that might impact us here in Northside, I wanted to set the tone by laying out my view of city government.

I believe city government is a customer service industry, designed to serve citizens and solve problems in their communities.

It’s that simple. Sure, we also have to focus on a big picture policy agenda that moves the city forward on a macro level, but our most fundamental duty on a day-to-day basis is to ensure we are serving the residents of Cincinnati as effectively as possible. If we fail to do this, little else we do matters.

Luckily, the City Administration is working hard to create a more customer service oriented government.

Here are a few examples:

Our 591-6000 customer service line is coupled with a website (www.5916000.com) and app (Fix It Cincy) that allow citizens to file real time complaints, track their progress, and see the results. You can schedule a time for the trash collectors to pick up a piece of furniture, let us know that there’s a really bad pothole on your route to work, or report a street sign that was damaged during an accident.

Our new Department of Buildings and Inspections has moved into a new location downtown at Centennial II (behind City Hall) to help streamline the process of getting construction permits. This doesn’t sound sexy (it’s not), but it’s important. Bringing all the relevant city staff under one roof will help significantly improve the time between when you apply for a permit and when it’s approved. It’s just one more way we’re trying to make doing business with the city easier.

These are only two examples of ways we’re trying to be more customer focused, but I know from experience that there are still so many ways we need to improve. If at any time you feel lost trying to navigate the confusing structure of City government as you try to solve a problem here in our neighborhood, I hope you’ll reach out and ask for help. The West Wing convinced me that I just might be able to help you out!

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PETE METZ
Pete Metz is Chief of Staff to Vice Mayor David Mann. He and his wife, Becca, moved to Northside in July.

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