Last Saturday morning at 10 a.m., we had a rare event in our neighborhood. We had the superintendent of police, the mayor, county and state officials, and the alderman all together in Austin to spend a little less than two hours focused on our community.
This was a potentially valuable opportunity, given our limited access to them, for our elected officials to devote their time to an effort that would have a lasting, positive impact on our community. This was a unique chance for a truly collaborative effort, bringing all levels of government officials together at one time.
They came together to walk through a few city blocks of Austin.
Our question: “Was this the best use of their time together?”
Also happening at that same time Saturday morning:
- The Green Team was conducting its community garden walk.
- Parents were watching their children at Little League baseball games.
- The farmers’ market in nearby Oak Park was offering double benefit for shoppers using their Link cards.
- The criminal activity was at the low point for the day.
If the consortium of elected officials had to pick a time of day to walk around the blocks, we would suggest a better time – at 10 p.m. on Saturday night. That’s when:
- Law-abiding citizens are at home, at a lawful event or in transit to or from one.
- Criminal activity is approaching a high point for the day.
We can think of at least one alternative activity that would have been an even better use of their time. It could potentially provide an impact that would last beyond a photograph in the paper or 30 seconds on the evening news.
That rare gathering in Austin – of all the government officials who have the responsibility to address the concerns of Austin – could have spent their two hours in a room, developing an action plan (with a timetable) for neighborhood safety, assigning responsibility and listing measurable outcomes.
We would be able to measure their effort by evaluating whether we felt any safer at 10 p.m. in Austin on any Saturday. We wouldn’t need to pull out the old pictures of them walking together around the city blocks to be assured that they worked on our behalf.