Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh announced the 2021 Office of Accountability, Performance and Innovation (API) Priority Area will focus on quality of life improvement across the city. The priority area is designed to identify inequities in the quality of life experiences of residents across neighborhoods and aims to create plans for how City departments can address quality of life challenges and enhance communities. The project is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, which helped launch the Innovation Team (i-team) in Syracuse in 2015.
“There is no more important work for city government than improving quality of life in our neighborhoods. The i-team has a proven track record in solving complex problems in city government,” said Mayor Walsh. “Bringing them into our quality of life work is an offensive strategy to understand the different challenges facing neighborhoods and to develop innovative ways to solve those problems. Every neighborhood deserves a better tomorrow. The i-team will help guide us there.”
In assessing quality of life priorities across the city, the i-team is engaged in listening to a diversity of voices within City government, as well as coordinating COVID-safe tabling sessions interviewing and surveying residents in the community. Due to COVID-19 and limited in-person engagement opportunities, the i-team’s grassroots-focused engagements are keeping residents safe and using tailored strategies to understand each neighborhood’s unique challenges.
“We want to make sure that we are providing solutions that matter the most to people while also putting equity front and center when it comes to how city resources are distributed and services are delivered,” said Nicolas Diaz, Chief Innovation and Data Officer.
One example, illegal setouts, was identified early in the process as a prevalent challenge in interviews with constituents as well as the city workforce. As part of the priority area challenge, the API office is partnering with behavioral science experts at the Behavioral Insights Team to design and test the effectiveness of special multilingual public messages to create behavioral interventions addressing illegal setouts in targeted neighborhoods. Other emerging issues range from police reform, housing, food insecurity, and excessive trash and debris to neighborhood aesthetics.
As part of the priority area research, the i-team is:
- listening, understanding, and defining quality of life across a diversity of residents and neighborhoods;
- identifying and analyzing inequities in city service deliveries that deepen the unequal experiences of residents in different neighborhoods; and
- creating plans and recommendations for how city departments can address each quality of life issue area.
“By assessing and tackling quality of life detractors in parts of the city, we can make sure our neighborhoods share the same story of investment, access and positive change to make all of Syracuse a great place to live,” said Mayor Walsh. “For our residents and communities to thrive, we are committed to taking an extensive and innovative look at how to get there.”
COVID-19 has presented challenges in public engagement around the Quality of Life priority area. To ensure the safety of city staff and residents, the API team will continue to plan COVID-safe, socially distanced tabling events and virtual engagements when possible. Engaging constituents is important to the work needed to improve neighborhoods.
The work on illegal setouts is expected to reach target neighborhoods in January 2021. Collective recommendations and plans for other quality of life issue areas are expected to be reviewed with city departments by June 2021.