How To: Engage With Your City

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Maria Galarza from last week's interview has been working for the City of Detroit for over a year now. A huge part of her job is interacting with residents, to answer questions, provide guidance, and work together. Something we were curious about was how someone, perhaps a person who has just moved to a new city, can work with city officials to improve the place they live. Below are here 3 tips for working with local government to improve your city wherever you are. 

1. Start with apps.
Maria says that she’s often used an app called See Click Fix. “I’ve used it because I saw a fire hydrant in my neighborhood just spewing water, and I was like, ‘This is awful! I have to report it!’ Then it logs you as being in that area and anytime one of your neighbors records something, you get a notification or an email.” She also mentioned Nextdoor: “It’s a group chat, but very specific to your neighborhood.” Maria says her office used it to announce a meet-and-greet they were hosting. Easy enough!

2. Contact your DON.
No, we’re not talking about the mafia. DON stands for Department of Neighborhoods and they serve a variety of purposes. Maria says that they’re the perfect choice “If there’s a major issue like a light that’s broken and it’s dark on your street and you want to call it in and follow up.” They’re also the people you should call if you want to attend a meeting of or form a block club (a neighborhood gathering focused on improving life in your area).

3. Check the local urban planning website.
Maria says that whenever there’s any type of planning in progress, they put a lot of effort into reaching out, including posting the meeting times on their website, distributing flyers, and even posting the presentation they gave at the meeting. No internet? No worries! “I’ve gotten calls like, ‘I have a neighbor who is elderly. Do you mind printing the presentation?’ I’m like, ‘Absolutely!’” She and other city workers want to make their meetings accessible, so just reach out. And finally, if you ever have a question about planning that’s happening in your area, she says: “The person who’s handling the planning project and all our info is on the website, and it’s divided by district. Figure out what district you live in first and then you go from there.”  

So helpful, Maria! What great ways to get involved in your community or fix things that are broken. Thank you so much for tips that work for quite a number of cities : ). Readers, after downloading these apps, come back next week to hear from a 22 year old restaurateur!