Twice over the past few days I’ve overheard discussions and complaints about how slow construction has been on the Cultural Trail in Fountain Square. In both cases, I interjected and explained that two of the main reasons for delays were the separate discoveries of buried historic rail lines and underground vaults. Both times I shared that information, the conversation quickly switched to how awesome it was that construction crews had discovered these artifacts of the city’s past. While there was still impatience over the Cultural Trail’s completion date being moved, these conversations were now centered around the infrastructure of the neighborhood’s past being linked to its future.
It’s clear to me now that these conversations hold a lesson for our city’s top brass: The truth will set you free.
As our community moves forward with infrastructure improvements that hold long-term benefits but cause short-term traffic headaches, communication is key. Even in today’s ultra-cynical, government-can’t-do-anything-right environment, citizens are going to be much less frustrated if they understand how a project is advancing or what it’s ultimate purpose is. I work close to Lafayette Road on the northwest side, and many of my coworkers have expressed confusion about why the street is being torn up. Once I tell them that a bike lane is being installed, most of them think highly of the project (although they still hate waiting for their turn to travel the currently one-lane road).
So what should the city do? To be fair, information regarding infrastructure projects is much easier to find on the web than just a few years ago. However, while plans and maps are posted, updates about progress are much more elusive. The solution could (and probably should) take multiple forms utilizing libraries, the web, and social media. The goal isn’t to reach everybody, but rather to put project updates out there so much that anyone searching for that information would trip over an abundance of facts.
The modern citizen wants to feel informed. The modern citizen wants to feel like they are their government’s client – government is working for them. To provide the client with updates on a project is an obvious priority in the business world, and it should be in the realm of public works as well.