NewsChannel 11 Investigates If City Leaders Respond to Citizens - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

11/23/04

NewsChannel 11 Investigates If City Leaders Respond to Citizens

Everyday city leaders actively pursue changes in the law. NewsChannel 11 told you recently how neighbors in Tech Terrace rallied together to put a stop to unruly conduct from student tenants, including parties, trash, and lack of property maintenance. So on December 7th, city council will meet to consider ways to combat the problem. This, as a result of citizens coming forward with complaints. But how often to council members and the mayor take the time to handle individual citizen concerns?

NewsChannel 11 teamed up with seven Lubbock residents to find out if the city's elected officials really care about their concerns. Council members and the mayor had no idea we was involved.

Our story begins with seven concerned citizens: each with pressing issues about their neighborhoods. Seven letters, sent to six Lubbock city council members and the mayor. Each letter describes problems in neighborhoods across the city. Such as concerns over dangerous intersections, vacant lots that have not been maintained by landlords and a legal dumping site posing a potential environmental hazard.

One of those letters was from Leia Bashore. She's concerned about police response time in central Lubbock. "I have encountered many experiences where in the middle of the night neighbors have had loud parties, disrupting the neighborhood. My concern is that there are not enough police officers patrolling my neighborhood."

Just a few days later Leia received a message on her answering machine from District 1 City Council Member Linda DeLeon. For the councilwoman, this isn't a rare occurrence. "Sometimes it's not what they want to hear when I do call because there's something that we can't fix and other things that we can and it's beyond the city council and even the city's control so we try to be very honest with the citizens," explains DeLeion.

She's not the only one who responded. In fact, every council member and the mayor or someone from their office wrote back, called or even made a personal visit.

Meet Donna Zartman, a resident of District 3, she wrote with complaints about vacant lots in her neighborhood saying, "There are many vacant lots in the neighborhoods around Flint and 34th Street that have not been maintained. We are aware that some of these lots have owners but those responsible have failed to keep the area clean, mowed and free of debris."

Just two days after receiving the letter, her elected representative showed up at her door. "We felt like the best thing to do with this citizen is to take the time out to let her show us what she's dealing with, what neighbors were telling her," says Councilman Gary Boren. The council member along with two city staffers went to Donna's house, picked her up in a car, and ask her to point out the problems. "We went to about probably seven or eight homes in our neighborhood here where we have some real serious issues," says Boren.

"Some of these problems, even though he grew up in this neighborhood he didn't realize were there and we have some problems that tend to fall through the cracks and don't get solved and those seem to frustrate him as much as they do me and so he's trying to find ways to deal with those problems," explains Donna.

Letters, e-mails, and phone calls come in everyday to City Hall. Council members tell us they try to address every one. Although it may take time, Donna says if her concerns are actually addressed, it will be worth the wait. "I don't think it has a quick fix but at least he's looking into it," she says.

Councilman Gary Boren has since issued notices to landlords with code violations in Donna's neighborhood. He says if the problems aren't corrected, citations will be issued in a few weeks.

Now let's take a closer look at each response from the mayor and council members.

  • Mayor Mark McDougal responded with a letter just one week after receiving his letter.
  • District 1 City Council Member Linda DeLeon made a personal phone call to her constituent after just a few days of receiving the letter.
  • District 2's Floyd Price's office called saying he would be in touch. But the citizen never received a follow up call from Price himself.
  • Gary Boren from District 3 made a personal visit after a few days of getting his letter.
  • For District 4, Phyllis Jones was the very first to respond with a letter after only a couple days.
  • District 5's Tom Martin also responded with a letter after a couple weeks.
  • Jim Gilbreath from District 6 wrote a letter after a few weeks as well.

These are only initial responses from the officials, we plan on following any action taken to address the citizen's concerns.

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