Over the weekend, Mayor Betsy Hodges wrote in a Facebook post that different “service levels between one part of town and another are unacceptable,” in response to a Star Tribune article on disparities in how Minneapolis reports addressing complaints about potholes.
She said even before the story ran, she asked department heads to examine how they could “increase equity” in their departments. The mayor said that Public Works Director Steve Kotke is “committed to gathering the right to data to really know what's happening and where with streetlights, potholes, plowing and any other service we provide.”
Public works officials have said that data showing pothole complaints to 311 are addressed the fastest in the Southwest and Nokomis communities – where citizens make the most complaints – is because of differences in how crews file paperwork, and that the same resources go to all parts of the city. Records show that north and northeast Minneapolis saw slower times and made fewer repair requests with the city.
“This might be a question of how the reports are filed, but we need to know for sure and we need to get it right for North and for the whole city,” Hodges, who campaigned on making the city more racially equitable, wrote on Facebook.
In an interview today, Hodges said that 311 complaints don’t account for all that public works crews do, but that “the first step is to make sure we’re getting good and consistent data.” In looking at it services, she said the city should ask, “How are we measuring this, and how would we measure this if we wanted to look at equity across the city regarding this service?”
Some services are more driven by citizen complaints than pothole repair, such as fixing streetlights, according to Hodges and Kotke.
“It’s not a shock that people in wealthier parts of the city are complaining more than people who are in low-income parts of the city,” said Hodges. “And … to the extent that our work is guided by complaints, that our services are guided by complaints, we need to take a look at that.”