Evanston aldermen wrestle with how to measure success

Parking meters

If Evanston issues more parking tickets, is that a good or a bad thing?

Questions like that were on the minds of Evanston aldermen this week as they reviewed a set of Citywide Performance Measures proposed by city staff.
The list of 69 proposed measurements across the city's 10 departments and the city manager's office focused on quantitative measures that are relatively easy to track.
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, suggested that rather than counting parking tickets issued, perhaps the city should be measuring its success in getting people to park legally -- avoiding the need to issue tickets.
Wynne said that she hoped new parking meters that will take credit cards could reduce instances in which people end up getting a ticket because they just didn't have enough change to feed the meter.
Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said it would be good to go back and rethink what measurements are needed.
Burrus said the city should be focusing more on measuring outcomes, rather than just activity.
"Activity is not a performance measure," she said.
"What is your outcome, what are you trying to achieve? I'm just not getting that here," she added.
Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, suggested that in addition to counting the number of inspections performed by property maintenance inspectors, the city should be trying to measure how many properties are brought into compliance and stay that way.
But Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she doubted the inspectors should be held responsible for that.
"We have some owners who are continually out of compliance and are not going to comply regardless of how you measure it," Rainey said.
Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said the city need to do a better job of tracking the entire review process for zoning requests that require review by city-appointed committees.
He cited a request for a parking pad from a family in his ward "that's been in the system seven months."
"That's ridiculous for the family," Tendam said, which has had to go through several appearances because committees lacked a quorum.
Grover also suggested adding tracking "positive interactions" that police have with the public -- like community meetings -- as well as crime statistics.
And she suggested trying to track satisfaction levels with care at the city's dental clinic, as well as the number of visits.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the city has a hundred or more business units, and each has had several performance measures.
Creating the shorter list, he said, was an effort to come up with a collection that wouldn't be so overwhelming.

Comments

Performance depends on how you look at it

The problem is that each of these measures is both valid and invalid depending on the outcome you want.
For instance, some of the Aldermen seem to be talking about how the behavior of citizens changes as a result of City involvement, which is an important perspective.  They are right, the ultimate goal of many of these departments is not to collect fines, but to improve behavior.  From Council's perspective, changes in citizen behavior is critical information to policymakers.
However, improved citizen behavior isn't a useful tool if you are trying to track a specific worker's productivity, a measure needed by the City.  In that case, number of citations or tracking citizen requests at least provide a quantitative measure of productivity.  Unfortunately, since citations, etc. depend on citizen behavior, (what if there are no parking scofflaws for a full week?  Will that be used to measure the parking officer's productivity?) like most quantitative measures, that alone isn't enough to offer an accurate picture of a particular employee's work.  
I can understand why the City Manager wants to streamline the review process; the current one may not be adequate and may be outdated - but, unfortunately, measuring something complex requires a complex set of tools.  There is no single answer to a performance review.

Measuring success of Evanston government

I would think that the most successful government has basic services and low taxes. Fees and grants can be used for other things like stuff to give away, special park activities, etc. Right now, Evanston stands ready to lose its middle class to other places because of high taxes and so much given away to people who don't quite make it to the middle class (or don't admit to doing so).

Pad?

Sorry, what's a "parking pad"?

Evanston parking rip- off

Open season in Evanston. Thought we would enjoy a nice dinner at Sashimi Sashimi with our two just-home-from-college kids.
Parked and fed the meter for over an hour at 7:35, got back to the car at 8:39 and found a parking ticket. In the time it took us to cross the street from the restaurant there was a ticket on the car.
I saw the ticketmeister chatting it up with another vehicle about three cars down and when I approached him I was just waved off....did not want to interrup the chat. The four cars past him had meters in different states of expiration, but he did not pay those any heed. Resigned, I drove to City Hall, wrote my check for $10, and paid in protest. 
It is my seasonal welcome to E-town, I should know better, but they got me again for the sake of four minutes!  Given the choice of eating in my own community and support local businesses,  I will pick Winnetka, Wilmette,Skokie, Morton Grove or Ravenswood or Andersonville where the ticket vultures are few or not at all.
Keep my money in Evanston at local businesses or deal with the ridiculous meter system? I will opt to go elsewhere.