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Think Tank Surveys City Residents On Priorities

By Paul Tuthill


Springfield,MA – A newly formed public policy think tank is trying to help the people of Springfield Massachusetts take responsibility for holding their elected officials accountable. WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

Through a series of public forums and focus groups, the Springfield Institute is trying to develop a list of municipal performance indicators that can be used to measure how well city hall is responding to the priorities of the people.

The executive director of the Springfield Institute, Aron Goldman , says the project came about as a result of Springfield's return to local governance this month after five years under the appointed Springfield Finance Control Board.

Goldman said a recent series of of focus groups conducted with people in the city's North End identified accoutability, transparency and communication as highest priorities.

The Springfield Institute hosted a discussion with about 75 community members Tuesday afternoon in the gymnasium of the South End Community Center. Nancy Bosques-Levesque, a city resident and a realtor, said she came because she's concerned about the direction the city is going in.

City Hall was represented at the meeting by Paul Foster, who heads the CitiStat department. Citistat is an internal data driven management tool that Foster says is now looking for more public input.

At the South End meeting, people said they were concerned about the city's financial health, and the performance of the Springfield Public Schools. A group of community gardeners voiced frustration because they said city hall was not responsive to their complaints about illegal dumping in the vacant lots the gardeners use. People at the meeting were asked to fill out questionnaires ranking their top five priorities.