Tuesday, December 6, 2016

2017 - The Year of BIC (Part 2 - Citizen Priorities)

In my last post, I gave background on how the 2016 UG Citizen Survey was constructed, distributed and collected. Now, let's look deeper at the results and identify the citizen responses that led me to declare "The Year of BIC" for 2017.

Before I go any further, I want to be clear that I am only presenting a subset of the data collected in the survey. You can find complete results (including "zoomed in" results for each Commission district) online at: http://www.wycokck.org/InternetDept.aspx?id=42921

In addition to gathering responses on satisfaction with delivery of city and county services, the survey also asked respondents to identify "priority" areas (where citizens believe the UG should focus its efforts).

This allowed ETC to calculate an "Importance-Satisfaction" index.

Several survey items ended up being tagged as "Very High Priority" for the Unified Government because citizens indicated a high level of importance, but reported a low level of satisfaction with those items.

Here's a chart that illustrates the relationship between importance and satisfaction for many survey items (click to enlarge).



I highlighted the three broad areas that had the largest combined rating of high importance and low satisfaction:
  • Maintenance of City streets
  • Communication with the public
  • Code enforcement
"BIC" is my shorthand for those three areas:

B = Blight = Code enforcement

Residents were pretty uniformly concerned across the city with unmowed grass and weeds, junk, trash, debris and structural dilapidation.


I = Infrastructure = Maintenance of City streets

As you might expect, residents of the older (eastern) parts of the city were most concerned about infrastructure that is wearing out and needs to be repaired or replaced. In addition to streets, residents noted concern with the condition of curbs, sidewalks and alleys.



C = Communication

This is a pretty universal concern across the city. Residents want to be kept in the loop and informed about what's going on. In my experience, that doesn't just mean press releases and newsletters (and blogs), it also means more personal one-on-one communication as well. That could be returning a phone call and following up on a citizen concern, or informing all the residents of a particular neighborhood that there will be a construction project starting soon.

In my next post, I'll dive a bit deeper into "BIC" and suggest some possible strategies I think we can put into action in 2017 to improve satisfaction with the services that are important to our residents.


~ Brian

Email: bmckiernan@wycokck.org

Click here to receive an email notice of new blog posts
http://eepurl.com/nX6Df

Like my page on Facebook
http://on.fb.me/1IFI5qv

Follow me on Twitter
http://www.twitter.com/bmckiernan_ug2


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

2017 - The Year of BIC (Part 1)

So... why does this post start with a picture of a good old Bic pen and what the heck do I mean when I say that I have declared 2017 to be "The Year of BIC"?

The answer to those questions can be found in the responses to the citizen survey that the Unified Government distributed and collected in March and April of this year.

In the remainder of this post I'm going to describe the survey and share one huge result that knocked my socks off. In the next post, I'll dive deeper into the survey results and in the third post in this series, I'll explain why those results led me to "The Year of BIC" (Blight reduction / Infrastructure improvement / Communication). I'll also describe how I think this initiative gives us the road map to a better life in Wyandotte County.


I was one of several Commissioners who successfully lobbied in 2014 for the UG to resume routine surveys of county citizens. We (UG) hadn't completed a comprehensive county-wide survey since 2000 and I just don't believe we can truly improve our level of service delivery if we don't periodically ask, "How are we doing?"

We completed our first survey in 2014 and repeated the process with another survey in March and April of this year. Our goal now is to complete a new survey every two years moving forward.

We contracted with ETC Institute in Olathe to distribute the surveys and to collect and analyze the results. The folks at ETC specialize in surveying citizens about satisfaction with delivery of government services and throughout their history, they have surveyed over 2 million people in more than 850 across 49 states.


Our survey was 6 pages long and contained several dozen questions that asked citizens to rate their satisfaction with the delivery of city and county government services by the Unified Government.

Survey responses were gathered by mail, phone and the internet. A total of over 2,900 surveys were completed and ETC ensured that at least 300 surveys were completed in each of the 8 Commission districts. Here's a map that shows the approximate "scatter" of responses from across the county.


We collected enough surveys to insure that the margin of error within the results was very small (plus or minus 2% for the answers to any given question). We also have enough data to "drill down" as deep as the neighborhood level in terms of how people answered.

The demographic results indicate that people who completed the surveys were very representative of the overall county population in terms of things like age, income, race, gender, etc.

Here are a handful of graphs that describe the 2,900+ total survey respondents as a group.










The last thing I'll share today is one set of results that absolutely hit me like a ton of bricks.

I invite you to click on the graphic below to enlarge it and then take a long look at all the results. For each question, the blue bar represents responses from our 2016 survey, the red bar represents responses ETC has gotten to the same question from communities all around the KC metro area and the yellow bar represents responses ETC has gotten from communities all around the United States.

Today, I'm only going to focus on the first question. It asked people to rate their satisfaction with the Overall Quality of Life in Wyandotte County on a 5-point scale ranging from "Very Satisfied" to "Very Dissatisfied".


Only 37% of our survey respondents indicated that they were Satisfied or Very Satisfied with the overall quality of life in Wyandotte County!

That's about half the number of "satisfied" responses from communities across the United States and I believe it is simply unacceptable. The rest of the survey results will help us identify several factors in Wyandotte County that I believe are shaping this negative perception. If we can successfully address those factors, I believe we'll substantially improve quality of life in Wyandotte County.

Easier said than done, I know.

That's all for today. In my next post, I'll share more survey results and tell you why I believe 2017 needs to be "The Year of BIC".

~ Brian


Email: bmckiernan@wycokck.org

Click here to receive an email notice of new blog posts
http://eepurl.com/nX6Df

Like my page on Facebook
http://on.fb.me/1IFI5qv 

Follow me on Twitter
http://www.twitter.com/bmckiernan_ug2

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

LED2 Lights Up Downtown KCK

This holiday season, you can head to downtown Kansas City, Kansas to "see the lights".

OK, so maybe they're not the Christmas lights we used to have, but the new LED streetlights that were recently installed on several blocks downtown are still pretty impressive.

LED2 ("LED squared") Lighting Group (Facebook) recently bought the building at 600 Minnesota (what some of us knew as the "Jupiter Building" growing up) and have set up shop there.

The new office for LED2 Lighting Group in downtown KCK.


I had a great conversation recently with Martin Zhang and Kevin Thomas of LED2 and they gave me some background on their company and on why they believe the switch to LED lighting makes sense.

Martin founded the company in 2011 after he learned LED technology through a college project where he created a large LED display. He was impressed with the potential applications of LED lighting and grew a company to manufacture and distribute LED arrays.

Martin said that his vision is to also create an assembly line facility in Kansas City, Kansas so that the company can both assemble and sell their products locally.

The company recently donated 94 LED fixtures for existing downtown light poles. The Unified Government paid to have them installed and we can all see for ourselves how LED lighting looks on city streets.

Here's one of the new LED lights
installed on an existing pole near 5th and Minnesota.
This map that shows where the new LED streetlamps
have been installed. Every red circle represents a new LED lamp.
You'll find them on Minnesota Ave. from 5th to 7th,
on 6th and 7th Streets from State Ave. to Barnett Ave.,
and on Ann Ave. and Barnett Ave. from 6th to 7th.
(Click the map to enlarge for better viewing.)

The company can sell completely new fixtures with LED technology or retrofit older existing fixtures by custom designing and manufacturing an LED array. They make products for a wide variety of interior and exterior applications. Besides streetlights, they have lighting arrays that work in settings from churches to offices to warehouses to restaurants and retail spaces.

Martin and Kevin stressed that they want to work with their customers and educate them on lighting and energy saving. They said that they know they have a quality product, but they don't want to just sell it and then walk away.

This picture and the one below show the familiar
"upside down dome" shape of our current streetlights.


Most (if not all) of the streetlights in Wyandotte County are are currently outfitted with "high pressure sodium" (HPS) type lamps. Across the country, city after city is replacing their old HPS lamps with new light emitting diode (LED) type lamps.

Here's a picture of the new LED lamp with an array
of light emitting diodes.

Martin and Kevin told me that the cost is similar to purchase and install the two different types of lamps. However, there are some differences that could tip the scale in favor of LED across the city.

LED lamps are estimated to last three times longer than HPS. Some sources suggest a 15-17 year lifespan for LEDs assuming the light is on for 10-12 hours per day. This compares to a 5-6 year life for a HPS lamp with an even shorter lifespan for the "ballast" that provides the proper electricity to energize the HPS fixture.

In addition to longer life, the cost of operating LED lamps can be 40-50% less than the cost of operating HPS.

The city of Los Angeles began a project in 2009 to convert all 210,000 streetlights in the city to LED and have documented a 63% savings so far in cost of operation (see "Los Angeles Saves Millions With LED Street Light Deployment").

One of the most noticeable differences between the old HPS and the new LED is that the light from the LED arrays tends to be a little more "blue - white" compared to the more amber color of many of the older HPS lights. Here's a before and after photo from the city of Santa Rosa, California comparing HPS with LED.

http://srcity.org/departments/publicworks/streetlight/Pages/default.aspx

The light from LED arrays can be aimed a little more than HPS lights, so LEDs tend to shine more "down" and less "out". This tends to reduce what some people see as glare from HPS streetlights and it tends to cut down on "light pollution" (light that is scattered around and above the street lamps themselves).

Although there is still debate about cause and effect, some authors have written about a correlation between better street lighting and a reduction in crime (see, for example, "The Crime Reducing Effect of Improved Street Lighting: The Dudley Project").

So... walk or drive downtown some evening and let me know what you think of the new lights.

Have a great week!
~ Brian

Email: bmckiernan@wycokck.org

Like my page on Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1IFI5qv 

Follow me on Twitter: @bmckiernan_ug2

Monday, February 23, 2015

Parks Ready to Bloom

I'm tired of winter. Gray skies. Brown plants. Forecast high temperatures in the 40's. Actual high temperatures in the 20's. Bah.



There... just looking at those colorful flowers makes me feel better.  :-)

I'm ready for the "green up" of spring and, in an urban area like District 2, the biggest green up happens in our parks.

According to a parcel map from UG staff, District 2 is home to 16 named parks:
  • St. John's Park
  • Huron Park
  • 8th Street Park
  • Woods Park
  • Northrup Park
  • Waterway Park
  • Flatiron Park
  • Splitlog Park
  • Holy Family Park
  • Simpson-Central Park
  • St. Margaret's Park
  • Lally Park
  • Bethany Park
  • Prescott Park
  • Shawnee Park
  • Bill Clem Park
Like most other cities in America, we are challenged to find the money and other resources necessary to simply maintain our existing parks, let alone enhance and expand them or consider creating new ones.

Local parks guru Steve Curtis sent me a couple of very, very interesting links that give us an insight into the history of one of our District 2 parks: Waterway Park (11th Street and Grandview Boulevard).



Here's a paragraph from a web page entitled "A Brief History of Kansas City, Kansas Municipal Government". This particular paragraph was written about events in KCK around 1910.

"As it developed, the parks system eventually included six public swimming pools, together with bath house/recreation buildings in Shawnee Park and Clifton Park. (The Clifton Park pool had a natural sand beach.) The most elaborate development within the new park system was Waterway Park, which stretched along an old watercourse from Washington Boulevard on the north to Grandview Boulevard on the south, and included as its centerpiece a sunken water garden in the block between State and Minnesota Avenues."

If you've never read the "brief history" web page, definitely click this link:
http://web.archive.org/web/19970210052718/www.kckcc.cc.ks.us/kck/kckhist.htm

The document traces the history of Kansas City, Kansas from the late 1800s to the late 1900s. It was published online as part of a collection of materials related to the consolidation of Kansas City, Kansas and Wyandotte County in 1997. This historical narrative was assembled from materials previously prepared by: Ralph W. Armstrong Jr., William L. Lebovich, Camille Ellett, Jerome Paul Laysaught, Larry K. Hancks, Joseph H. McDowell, Grant W. Harrington, Mary Flanagan Rupert, Margaret Landis, and Edwin Dale Shutt II.

It's a completely fascinating read that we'll definitely visit again. But now, back to parks.

Here's a planting map for the Waterway Park complex as prepared by the Landscape Architectural firm of Hare and Hare sometime around 1910.

Definitely click on this image to enlarge it
so that you can see the incredible detail.
Alternately, here's a link that points
to the original document online:
http://bit.ly/1vpRPzP
I grew up in this neighborhood in the 60s and 70s and I never remember a "sunken water garden" between Minnesota and State nor a lake in what is now Waterway Park. All I remember is a hole in the ground with the crumbling remains of a park that looked it had once been pretty neat.
Here's a Google map screen shot that I roughly cropped
to match the site plan pictured above.
Only Big Eleven Lake remains of the "waterway"
features of the original park.
Over the past several years, the Unified Government and community partners like Community Housing of Wyandotte County have worked magic in reinventing Waterway Park and enhancing its value in the community.

But what happened? Why did this urban oasis disappear in the mid to late 1900s and need to be recreated?

Like all other city infrastructure, parks can be more expensive to maintain than to build. 

I'm guessing that, as the city grew and as people moved from the urban core to new suburban neighborhoods, local government simply did not have the resources to maintain urban parks to anywhere near their former glory.

We still face that same challenge today.

A report titled, "Revitalizing Inner City Parks: New Funding Options Can Address the Needs of Underserved Urban Communities" states, "While interest in city parks is reviving and governments and civic groups around the country are revitalizing run-down city parks, the current economic downturn in states and cities and severe budget restraints are still a major threat to the health of existing parks, and the creation of new parks." (National Recreation and Park Association http://www.nrpa.org/uploadedFiles/nrpaorg/Grants_and_Partners/Recreation_and_Health/Resources/Issue_Briefs/Urban-Parks.pdf)

I had the pleasure of meeting the UG's new Director of Parks and Recreation last week. Jeremy Rogers comes to Wyandotte County from Independence, Missouri where he served for many years as Assistant Director of Parks and Recreation.

He is still in the process of learning about our parks and visiting them to gauge their strengths and weaknesses, but he said that he already has some ideas on positive steps we can take toward improvement.

Ultimately, though, it's going to take resources. You and I will need to work together on that.

If you haven't already, send me an email or head over to my Commissioner page on Facebook and give me your perspective on the following questions:
  • What parks do you visit?
  • In the grand scheme of things, is maintaining and improving our parks a high, medium or low priority for you?
  • What could we (UG and community) do to enhance your use and enjoyment of the parks you visit?
Finally, who knows where Woods Park is in District 2?  :-)


Have a great week!
~ Brian

Email: bmckiernan@wycokck.org



Friday, December 19, 2014

El Padrino Soccer Still Growing in Wyandotte County

One of the largest soccer suppliers and biggest soccer league organizers in Kansas City cut the ribbon on a new, expanded store late Friday afternoon.

El Padrino Soccer recently moved from 848 Central to a bigger newly renovated store at 708 Simpson (just a little bit northwest of 7th and Central).

It was misty outside, but warm and inviting inside
the new store at 708 Simpson.
The new store is just west of 7th and Central.

Owner Raul Villegas welcomed several dignitaries along with dozens of kids and their families to his warm and inviting new space. El Padrino sells every piece of soccer gear imaginable from cleats to uniforms to soccer balls and training gear.

Some of the dignitaries in attendance (from left):
Carlos Gomez (Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City)
Sandra Olivas-Talavera (Brotherhood Bank and Trust)
Raul Villegas (El Padrino Soccer)
Mark Holland (Unified Government Mayor)
El Padrino boasts a huge inventory of soccer essentials.
Raul Villegas presents Mayor Holland with
a personalized jersey of the Mexican National Team.

In addition to operating one of the premier soccer outfitting stores in the Kansas City area, Mr. Villegas is also the driving force behind the El Padrino Premier Soccer League.

Mr. Villegas founded the league in March of 2009. Since that time it has grown dramatically. Mr. Villegas estimates that he has over 700 youth registered as members of the league. They range in age from 3 to 17. About 80% are boys and 20% are girls. He estimates that about 50% are from east-central Wyandotte County (right where District 2 is located). When you count kids who play as guests of members, he states that over 1,200 kids play in the league on an annual basis.

Although his team fees are generally half of what teams would pay to play in other leagues in the city, he says that many of his kids often face a challenge coming up with the money.

His coaches are all volunteers and he says that, in addition to coaching, they often drive kids to games and pitch in to pay referees when needed.

Mr. Villegas was born in Mexico and migrated to the United States in March 1993. According to a bio on the Sporting KC web site, "At the age of 5 he started to follow Club America, a soccer team in the Mexican league, and he said since that day he knew he wanted to grow up to be surrounded by the Soccer industry."

Time to cut that ribbon!

I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with Mr. Villegas and Mr. Hector Solorio last spring when they gave me a tour of their new indoor soccer facility, Soccer Nation, located at 520 S. 55th St.

This incredible 40,000 square foot complex is located in an old, converted warehouse and features two AstroTurf covered indoor soccer fields. The field are in use daily and the day I visited, the building was literally packed with young soccer players and their families.

The parking lot was packed outside of Soccer Nation last spring.

Great areas for families and spectators around both fields.
Although he would like for his league to hold games year 'round at Soccer Nation, Mr. Villegas says that it's just too expensive to air condition the uninsulated building in the summer, so his teams all currently drive to Grandview for summer games. He is looking hard to find enough land in Wyandotte County to build seven outdoor fields so that his teams never have to make a road trip to play a home game.

Goal!!!
This team was warming up to play when I stopped by.
Hope I brought them good luck!
If you'd like to learn more about Soccer Nation or El Padrino, click the links below or visit either facility.

El Padrino
708 Simpson
Kansas City, KS 66102
913-371-3535

El Padrino Premier Soccer League

Soccer Nation
520 S. 55th St
Kansas City, KS 66106
913 208-8661


Have a great week!
~ Brian

Email: bmckiernan@wycokck.org





Friday, October 24, 2014

Premier Investments Makes Armourdale Strong

Anyone who has driven on 7th Street in the Armourdale area in the last few months has seen a huge building under construction just to the east of Shawnee Park.

That 170,000 square foot building is located between Shawnee and Osage Avenues (south of Kansas Avenue) and is the latest project of Premier Investments, LLC, a development company that is located in Armourdale and has been doing amazing things to build and strengthen that area of the city for close to 40 years.

Here's a view of the new 170,000 sq. ft. building under construction
(photo taken from the corner of 5th and Osage).

A parent company, Prime Investments, was created by Bill Willhite, Sr. in the mid-1970's. He built or acquired and then leased a couple of buildings himself in the early 1970's and then created the company in the late 1970's.

Since its inception, Prime / Premier has either renovated or built from scratch close to 2 million square feet of industrial space in the Armourdale area. With additional buildings and space in Fairfax and in the river front area of Kansas City, Missouri, the company has created close to 3 million square feet of industrial space.

The new building is represented by the red rectangle.
This map not only shows where the building is located,
but gives you a sense of what a tremendous addition
it is to the Armourdale area.
Bill Willhite, Jr. currently serves as president of Prime / Premier while his sister Kathi Butler serves as vice president. They have both made it clear to me that they value the Armourdale community and are glad that they can contribute to the vitality of the community through their company and their buildings.

Here's another photo of the new building
from the corner of Packard & Osage
This artist's rendering shows how the building
will look when it is completed.
As you see in the drawing above, the buildings that Prime / Premier builds and develops are visually distinctive. They all feature a white exterior above a horizontal blue stripe. Look for that blue stripe the next time you drive through eastern Armourdale.

You can learn more about this new building and about the history of the company through a couple of articles that were published in the Kansas City Business Journal. One article is new (from the March 20, 2014 issue) and the other is a little older (from the June 26, 2005 issue).

Thanks to Bill and Kathi for (literally) building up our community through their work!!


~ Brian

bmckiernan@wycokck.org
- or -
Suggestion Box (anonymous)



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Improving Street and Sidewalk Infrastructure (Part 1)

Back in March, I outlined the huge challenge we have ahead of us to repair and replace aging streets, curbs, sidewalks and alleys in District 2 and throughout the whole city (see "Streets and Sidewalks and Alleys, Oh My").

Since street crews are out in several district neighborhoods right now, I thought this would be a good time to begin introducing you to the alphabet soup of infrastructure repair in the Unified Government.

So... today's blog is brought to you by the letters N, S, R and P. That's shorthand for Neighborhood Street Resurfacing Program.

Each year, the Unified Government dedicates between $2-3 million of its Capital Maintenance and Improvement Projects (CMIP) budget to resurfacing a portion of the asphalt streets in the city. We call this process "grind and overlay" because the top couple of inches of old asphalt are ground off (by a giant and very impressive machine) and a new top layer of asphalt is laid down.

Here's a street that's in the middle of the "grind and overlay" process.
The top layer of old asphalt has been ground off the entire road
and new asphalt has already been laid on the left side of road.

A memo from out County Engineer says that, "Streets are selected based on maintenance history, assessment of condition, and likelihood of benefit from the mill and overlay treatment. Candidate streets are identified from a number of sources, including engineering and maintenance division staff assessments, citizen calls, and Commissioner's observations. It is intended that a resurfacing effort last on a street for 20-30 years. While an overlay does improve the appearance and smoothness of a road — the primary intent of this treatment is to renew the asphalt cap and provide major structural restoration."

UG staff do their best to make sure that we resurface as many miles of streets as possible each year. The sad truth, however, is that we're not currently overlaying enough miles of asphalt streets each year to get them all refreshed every 20-30 years. We need to find more money in our budget to pick up the pace.

Here's a sample of the street maps
that our county engineer provides each year
to illustrate the streets that will be resurfaced.
I generally get maps for about four different locations
within District 2.

Streets are selected for resurfacing a year in advance to allow time to coordinate utility work (e.g., BPU electrical or water service repairs), make any needed sewer repairs, and construct the necessary curb ramp upgrades to comply with ADA (the Americans with Disabilities Act - which mandates that any time a street undergoes grind and overlay that "curb cuts" be installed on every street corner that connects to a sidewalk).

Here's a corner where the old sidewalk and curb
have been removed to make way for new ADA ramps (curb cuts).
Once a number of corners have been prepared,
concrete crews pour new concrete
and shape the ADA ramps.
Here's a corner where new ramps have been installed.
Crews will come back to replace the dirt around the sidewalk.
They'll also repair the asphalt that was broken out
to make way for the new curb cuts.

So, there's an example of how we're slowly but steadily chipping away at the infrastructure repairs and improvements that are needed throughout the city. I'll share more of the "alphabet soup" of infrastructure repair in an upcoming post.


Have a great week!
~ Brian

bmckiernan@wycokck.org
- or -
Suggestion Box (anonymous)