I was pretty excited when I saw that Eric Garcetti posted a new How To/ Neighborhood Improvement feature at his site for dealing with assorted city issues… but then I started to read the contents of what promised to be an awesome idea. To start, the “how to” guides are all unnecessarily in .pdf format, making for slow load time. It appears these are meant to be printed in flyer form, but it only take a few minutes to reformat these for easy reading by everyday web readers like you and me. As they are, you need to read them a little like a Japanese comic book, from back to front.
Anyway, if you hate nitpicking, ignore this post, as I’ve dissected and graded all of the “How To/ Neighborhood Improvement Guides” presented by the City Council President. I would prefer to champion every move made by the eco-friendly, web savvy, secret-agent-in-training Garcetti, but this one deserves a little analysis… mostly because its a great idea that could be improved…
#1 How To Protect and Improve Your Housing is decent enough, but the only practical advice that applies to the guide’s title is how to file a complaint with the Housing Department. It also informs about a Handyworker Program for low income seniors who need household repairs, but it also contains somewhat out place sections on Lead Poisoning and Grounds for Eviction… all usefule bits, but more appropriate in a different document. My biggest complaint is that the guide doesn’t offer any advive on how to do anything yourself besides how to complain or get others to do the work for you. Grade: C
#2 How To Get Speed Bumps Installed In Your Street points out that unless you’re the “neighborhood contact” you can’t proceed with the necessary steps to get a speed bump installed. The rest of the document is thorough enough for what a “neighborhood contact” would need to to do… but never explains who or what a “neighborhood contact” is or how to find out. Grade: C
#3: How to Start Your Own Neighborhood Watch is woefully deficient in how to start your own neighborhood watch. Besides giving a phone number to call, and the direction to “Select a coordinator and block captains who are responsible for organizing meetings” the .pdf file is dedicated to describing the benefits of a neighborhood watch. From my abandoned efforts at creating a watch in Hollywood, I know there’s additional steps that need to be taken before the police will become involved (such as rallying and organizing your neighborhood behind the effort). Grade: F
#4 How to Brighten Up Your Block is, unfortunately, not about getting your neighbors into a better mood (maybe this will be a future guide). But it is a concise guide on how property owners can get new and or improved street lighting where they live along with a cost breakdown. Grade: A
#5 How To Report Graffitti, Broken Trash, and Potholes, rewords the same instructions for handling each: Call 311. But it also adds useful definitions and “next steps” for dealing with the problems, especially information on the UnTag initiative for reducimg neighborhood graffitti. Grade: A
Know Your Municipal Codes has a lot of useful info, but is far from thorough. Unique rule I didn’t know: hours for yard sales are restricted from 9am to 5pm – alas, if you allow or encourage early birds you’re a lawbreaker! I certainly hope this is only one part of more Municipal Code guides. Grade: B
How To Work With City Government is the best education on how laws are passed since the “I’m Just A Bill” Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. While additional fleshing out would be nice (including some sort of case study), there’s not much wasted space in the two page document which also breaks down the city budget in layman’s terms and provides a guide to “Enact Legislation “. Grade: A
Considering the PDF faux paux, I give the overall intiative a B-. Could have gone lower, but I think Garcetti deserves extra credit for trying to get this information out to the public.