Dear Mr. Gonzales, Ms Chirco, Ms Dando, Ms Hensley, Mr. McCullough and Kirk Community Staff,
I am writing to express my concern over the new City Wide Activity Guide initiative.
The goals of this way of communicating information to local communities — to 'make it easier to find programs' and to 'strengthen communities of people' (inside cover statement by Sarah Hensley) —are clearly not being met. Enrollment is down drastically across the city.
Thirty-three classes have been canceled at Kirk Community Center alone (I know this because I asked).
2 This new idea to inform residents was poorly publicized and left many residents disadvantaged. Changing from a regular mailing to homes to residents having to pick up guides from local centers has had far-reaching consequences. Asking residents to pay $10 to have brochures delivered to their home when they previously received this service free is counterproductive, as it in effect asking them to pay to be advertised to.
3 My personal experience has been that due to inaccuracies in the information there is unnecessary confusion. In addition, trying to find out whether classes are available is very difficult as there is currently no central organizing office which collates the information. I had great difficulty finding out what was available when choosing classes in the Moreland district for classes offered at Starbird.
4 The citywide brochure detracts from the services offered by community-based centers. Previously, the Kirk Community Brochure seemed to address the needs of the local community. There was a community page which I used to invite community members to Kirk Kids Sports and home school Park meetings. I am unable to do this now. The Kirk community brochure encouraged community participation, and I felt part of this community.
I understand that making all information available is a good idea but the way this has been done is defeating all objectives.
The new guide is full of errors, is too voluminous and it fails in the following regard.
I came to participate in Kirk programs when I casually read the brochure. I enrolled my children on the basis of 'we'll give this a try as it is in my community' and I have been very impressed with the classes and the warmth and friendliness of the staff at the Kirk Community Center.
6 It is unlikely that people would want to travel long distances at peak traffic times to attend classes all over San José. It is more likely that people would want classes that are easy to get to and in local communities to enable local families to get to know one another. This is one reason why the old brochure worked so well. Clearly the old method met both of Ms Hensleys goals.
An accurate class matrix should be put on a web site for residents to access using a good search engine for people who are looking for a specific class; sorting by distance as Yellow Pages sites do.
A directory listing of all classes including information of cost and location would enable a comparison to easily be made. With a database-backed website this should be straightforward. Classes in some areas are much cheaper than in others - this should be clear to the customer, as they may then justify the traveling required.
My final concerns are to do with the ramifications of an obviously flawed initiative.
Firstly, during a year with serious financial concerns it seems reckless to have implemented such a poorly thought through initiative, without a plan B.
The residents were expecting their brochures to be mailed out as usual and then missed enrollment opportunities.
9 As classes across the city did not meet enrollment minimums classes have had to be canceled, with resulting loss of jobs for the teachers and income for the city. The consequences of these events are four-fold:
14 The financial ramifications are very serious indeed — No classes, no profit, and no redistribution of funds across the city.
18 Customers could be lost indefinitely to surrounding cities.
19 I believe that it is time for local Community Advisory councils to be reactivated to enable a dialogue to exist between local neighborhoods and the people who have responsibility for our local services. These people should be accountable for their actions to the community and council members. Our communities need dialogue.
What I have personally witnessed in recent months fills me with dismay. I would challenge the idea that the City of San José is one city requiring one guide.
The City of San José is like the United States of America. It is comprised of a variety of people with different needs for a variety of reasons. Trying to manage communities by homogenizing them is not in the interests of the communities themselves; we should celebrate diversity rather than try assimilating everyone.
21 I would like to see a return to the community-based brochure and an accurate city-wide guide published on the web with an up-to-date search engine, where it could attract people form neighboring towns too.