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Evanston aldermen wrestle with how to measure success

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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.

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