Help a constituent, make a friend. That’s the mother’s milk of popular government.
When you walk into City Hall on Lyon Terrace or the Annex on Broad Street, a constituent services representative will help you with a problem or direct you to the right office . They serve as an extension of the mayor’s office. Sometimes, the constituent just wants to vent, sometimes it’s a problem easily handled at the front desk, sometimes it’s a simple call to the correct place to achieve a resolution. But each and every day constituents have something to say or ask:
The bastards didn’t pick up my garbage today! The sewer is clogged. Where do I get a building permit? How about a birth certificate? I need a marriage license. Where’s the court house? My tax bill is screwed up. Hey, my old lady changed the locks on the door.
The Connecticut Post has unfairly labeled constituent services as “City Hall Greeters.” Baloney. They are on-the-spot problem solvers, often in the line of a fire-breathing resident where the difference between resolution and police response is a fine line.
Effective constituent services takes a major strain off departments. Instead of Mr. Blowtorch making a scene in a city office, the issue is dealt with on the spot or on the phone.
A contingent of City Council members and city staff bussed to NYC on Friday to review its 24-hour 311 Customer Service Center, following elimination of Bridgeport’s costly outsourced 211 system.
“We went to learn their system, how well it incorporates the needs of the taxpayers, approximate costs, and the importance of it,” says AmyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia who joined her council-mates. “It will take time to incorporate to our needs as a lot of research is required along with accessing to computer programs. NYC 311 system offers over 3600 services to their callers. The mission is to have accessibility, accountability and transparency.”
In addition to AmyMarie, the following council members attended: Thomas McCarthy, Michelle Lyons, Susan Brannelly, Mary Evette Brantley, Maria Valle, Carlos Silva, Richard Paoletto and Daniel Martinez.
City Council staffer Thomas White and staff from the government-efficiency CitiStat Program John Gomes and Carolanne Curry also attended.
In the city’s current configuration, public calls for assistance are handled by two constituent services representatives who follow up and process the information into a databank fed to the CitiStat program. This enables officials to review departments for problem areas, make recommendations for improvements with the ultimate goal to better service the public and save money.
The Say Kaye Kid
Imagine a neglected city-owned marina surrounded by a sewage treatment plant, municipal dump and troubled housing project. The mayor tells you okay, take this thing over, turn it around, but don’t expect any help from government. Good luck.
When Kaye Williams looks at a problem he focuses on the opportunity rather than obstacles. Nearly 30 years since that conversation with John Mandanici and every mayor that followed–Lenny Paoletta, Tom Bucci, Mary Moran, Joe Ganim, John Fabrizi and now Bill Finch–Kaye has continued to shine a jewel that thousands look forward to visiting this time of year. The warm sun, cool breeze kissing your cocktail on the deck overlooking Black Rock Harbor at Captain’s Cove Seaport.
The boardwalks, shops, restaurant, bar, hospitality and yes, just a nice place to escape for a an hour or two.
Kaye, now 80 years old, can be seen with hammer in hand, getting things ready for a new season that will begin in a few weeks. The thing about Kaye that makes him such an intriguing personality is the way he looks at life. Most of us view life from the land out to the water. Kaye sees things from the perspective of water toward land.
I did not understand this until a conversation I had with Kaye regarding his vision for showcasing his project the HMS Rose, a replica of the Revolutionary War ship, around the world. It was the Rose, a British frigate, that forged creation of the U.S. Navy.
“The water that laps here also laps in Rotterdam,” he told me as a young scribe. This was Kaye’s way of envisioning a Rose tour of the world.
As Kaye readies Captain’s Cove for another season, he does so with a heavy heart. Jan, his marketing-genius daughter, lost a courageous battle with cancer recently. Kaye’s son Bruce and daughter Jill will help Kaye continue a family tradition that has attracted thousands to the Cove: hospitality, smiles and always stories that warm the soul of a sailor.
Kaye Williams, the Best of Bridgeport.