The city’s responsiveness has markedly accelerated even as service demands have risen sharply in recent years. During that time, it appears that there’s better service in every ward in the city and that among different neighborhoods, the gap in the time it takes to fix problems has narrowed. That has occurred even as the city’s population has grown and its workforce has shrunk.
The data, as well as polling and interviews, suggest that the ethical controversies and federal investigations that have surrounded Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and some D.C. Council members have not affected the functions of the city. They suggest that after substandard service through the 1990s, the past decade of city leadership has created a new base line of service delivery buoyed by stable revenue, a better-managed workforce and an embrace of technology.
But that has not eased some residents’ concerns that the recent political embarrassments could threaten the city’s progress toward meeting its most basic expectations.
“City services are one of those things that you don’t think about until something doesn’t work right,” said Jeannine Jacokes, a resident since 1988 who has watched the city move past once-frequent missed trash pickups and pothole-laden streets. “But something that is of concern is reading about all of the difficulties that’s going on with members of the city council and the mayor. . . . If it continues for an indefinite period of time, I think it can impact the quality of service.”
The data reviewed by The Washington Post deal with the relatively small annoyances of urban life — potholes, non-working streetlights, rats, broken parking meters. Although the metrics do not reveal how the D.C. government addresses its most difficult problems — such as the quality of education and social services for the needy — they indicate how the government meets its most basic demands.
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The Post reviewed the information with the help of Georgetown University researcher Lindsay Pettingill, who has analyzed D.C. service data for academic purposes. The data consist of requests routed through the city’s central clearinghouse for service tracking.
When a request is made through the city’s 311 call center or the Internet or by a city employee, a “ticket” is opened to allow residents and administrators to track the issue and then closed after action is taken. The elapsed time between the opening and closing of a ticket provides a rough but telling measurement of government response.