311

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - FROM PAGE ONE -

ge­o­graphic sec­tions it called quad­rants. Each area got a divi­sion chief and re­sources to re­spond to ser­vice re­quests stream­ing in from the neigh­bor­hoods in their sec­tion.

Even when the sys­tem was set up in 2017, city of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edged that the broadly drawn south­west­ern area, stretch­ing from Leakin Park along Bal­ti­more’s west­ern border to Cur­tis Bay, was home to sev­eral hot spots for il­le­gal dump­ing and other deep­rooted chal­lenges with blight and grime. It al­ready had a long back­log of ser­vice re­quests.

To an­tic­i­pate that ex­tra need, they planned to send four crews to re­spond to cleanup calls in the area, while other sec­tions of the city would get three crews.

But staffing short­ages from the start ham­pered the plan to di­rect more crews to­ward the neigh­bor­hoods that needed them most.

From Jan. 1 to Oct. 31 this year, data show the only part of town that came close to get­ting its 311 dirty-al­ley re­quests cleaned up on time was the de­part­ment’s south­east­ern sec­tion.

For some res­i­dents, in­clud­ing Tay­lor, it’s another in­di­ca­tor of how their ZIP code dic­tates the city’s level of in­vest­ment.

Ray­mond Win­bush, di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute for Ur­ban Re­search at Mor­gan State Univer­sity, said he’s long heard com­plaints from black res­i­dents who feel 311 isn’t de­signed to help them. It’s im­pos­si­ble to look at the way dif­fer­ent neigh­bor­hoods are treated, he said, and not see the ef­fects of struc­tural racism and clas­sism.

“I’ve heard for years peo­ple say, ‘I didn’t call 311 be­cause that’s the line for white peo­ple,’ ” Win­bush said.

City Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Brandon Scott plans to in­tro­duce a res­o­lu­tion at Mon­day’s meet­ing that calls for rep­re­sen­ta­tives from 311 Ser­vices and the De­part­ment of Pub­lic

Works to ap­pear be­fore the coun­cil and ex­plain the dis­par­i­ties in re­sponse time.

The city is aware of the dis­crep­ancy in cleanup ser­vice, and of­fi­cials say they’re work­ing to send more re­sources to­ward the south­west­ern area, where they say the need is most sig­nif­i­cant.

When Demo­crat Bernard C. “Jack” Young be­came mayor in May, he de­cided to make fight­ing grime one of his pri­or­i­ties.

He launched “CleanS­tat” this sum­mer, di­rect­ing his in­no­va­tion of­fice to de­velop a data-driven look at how ef­fec­tively the city deals with trash, lit­ter­ing and il­le­gal dump­ing. It’s an out­growth of Bal­ti­more gov­ern­ment’s “Ci­tiS­tat” ap­proach of us­ing per­for­mance data from var­i­ous agen­cies, no­tably the po­lice de­part­ment, to gauge ef­fec­tive­ness and progress.

One of the first things the of­fice did was map the 311 re­sponse time data by neigh­bor­hood. The goal was to en­sure that all neigh­bor­hoods get the same level of ser­vice.

“One of the things we’re try­ing to do through­out CleanS­tat is look at eq­uity,” said Sheryl Gold­stein, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff for op­er­a­tions. “Ev­ery­body wants to do bet­ter. Not only do we need more eq­ui­table ser­vice, but we need bet­ter ser­vice through­out the city.”

As with The Sun’s anal­y­sis, the city’s map showed only neigh­bor­hoods in the south­east­ern sec­tion were get­ting con­sis­tent help for their 311 calls about dirty al­leys. (City of­fi­cials ver­ify the data by spot-check­ing re­quests to en­sure they’re closed or are in progress, as re­ported by work­ers.)

Of­fi­cials plan to make their CleanS­tat web­site pub­lic, al­low­ing peo­ple to look up how many re­quests are re­ceived and how quickly crews are deal­ing with them.

Since iden­ti­fy­ing the trend in Septem­ber, the city has shifted more re­sources to the south­west­ern por­tion of the city. Of­fi­cials redi­rected two crews from other quad­rants to clean­ing up neigh­bor­hoods in the south­west­ern dis­trict, and sent work­ers in on over­time on the week­ends to re­solve back­logged re­quests. The goal is to clear over­due re­quests by Jan­uary, and make progress on im­prov­ing the on-time re­sponse rate in 2020.

They also plan to see whether there are any les­sons to be learned from how the south­east­ern quad­rant op­er­ates that can be em­u­lated in other parts of the city.

Of­fi­cials said there was no in­ten­tion to pro­vide pref­er­en­tial treat­ment to res­i­dents of that area.

“The dif­fer­ent quad­rants have dif­fer­ent chal­lenges,” Gold­stein said. “One of the things we’re look­ing at through CleanS­tat is what staffing looks like and whether there needs to be ad­just­ments to what the staffing lev­els are.”

There are sev­eral fac­tors con­tribut­ing to the dis­parate re­sponse times, Gold­stein said. The level of work as­so­ci­ated with each 311 call isn’t equal, with some be­ing much more la­bor-in­ten­sive than oth­ers.

There aren’t nec­es­sar­ily more re­quests for dirty al­ley ser­vice com­ing from th­ese neigh­bor­hoods. For in­stance, res­i­dents of Pat­ter­son Park in the south­east­ern sec­tion made 580 re­quests for a cleanup in the pe­riod an­a­lyzed by The Sun. All were com­pleted on time, ac­cord­ing to the data­base. This sec­tion of the city is home to sev­eral pre­dom­i­nantly white, wealth­ier neigh­bor­hoods like Fells Point and Can­ton, though there are large swaths of the quad­rant that are more racially and eco­nom­i­cally di­verse, in­clud­ing ar­eas of deep poverty.

Res­i­dents of Car­roll­ton Ridge, a much poorer com­mu­nity dot­ted with va­cant houses, made 320 calls in the first 10 months of the year. Just 5% were an­swered on time. The south­west­ern sec­tion in­cludes many pre­dom­i­nantly black neigh­bor­hoods, in­clud­ing Har­lem Park and Cherry Hill. Many of the ar­eas in this swath of the city have dealt with years of dis­in­vest­ment, and are near the ar­eas Trump and his sup­port­ers fo­cused on when de­cry­ing con­di­tions in the city.

Tay­lor says she does her part to keep the streets near her home clean. But she needs city crews to do some of the heavy lift­ing. While she’s not re­spon­si­ble for the va­cant houses on her block or dump­ing trash bags on the ground, she lives with the con­se­quences: a pu­trid stench and plenty of rats.

Tay­lor called 311 at the end of Septem­ber about a dirty al­ley. She was told a cleanup was due Oct. 8. She checked in with the city Oct. 22 be­cause the trash re­mained, lit­ter­ing the al­ley to the point where she had to use her cane to shove de­bris out of the way to cre­ate a path to walk. She says the only in­for­ma­tion the per­son who an­swered the phone gave her was a track­ing num­ber for the re­quest.

She hopes the city’s re­newed fo­cus on her neigh­bor­hood this fall makes a change, but af­ter years of ask­ing 311 op­er­a­tors to send as­sis­tance, Tay­lor feels “there’s al­most no sense of call­ing.”

TALIA RICH­MAN/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Judy Tay­lor, 78, calls 311 of­ten to re­port the dirty al­ley be­hind her rowhome in South­west Bal­ti­more’s Car­roll­ton Ridge neigh­bor­hood. Be­tween Jan. 1, 2019, and Oct. 31, 2019

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