“Coffee with a Cop” brings police officers and community members they serve together — over coffee — to discuss issues and learn more about each other. In 2012, the Town of Brookhaven started a “Coffee with the Supervisor” program that delivers recent town developments and conversations with business leaders via a web based platform. Questions are submitted prior to the taping and are raised by the supervisor in the recorded conversation. The Village of Port Jefferson started in early 2018 to have a “Conversations with the Mayor” web-series that are conversations on hot topic issues facing the village. I wonder why our current town supervisor has not adopted a similar communication feedback. Have there not been any developments for a feedback mechanism because there is a cost concern or is it because no feedback system is necessary for governance?
A constituent feedback system is much more than asking residents to answer a survey or leave an online review or attend open office hours (limited to only evening appointments on Mondays). All data is not created equal when it comes to finding insights that lead to actionable changes and improvements that would make the town better.
Therefore, there are steps that the town supervisor could take to better improve a dialogue between residents and the town, a dialogue that seemed have been all about forgotten about by the prior town supervisor. Therefore, it’s crucial that our town board, particularly our town supervisor, striving to be re-elected and be an effective leader, take the time to understand what her constituents really need and want from the town. A well-planned constituent feedback system can help her and other public makers identify gaps, make changes that will improve satisfaction, quality of service, attract new residents, increase citizen engagement and foster better communication.
There is no doubt that the current Riverhead town supervisor, Lauren Jens Smith is an intelligent woman. She received her associate’s degree at Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing and her bachelor’s degree from Pace University. She’s articulate and cares for outcomes — outcomes in town government or previously with her patients. I wonder her rationale as to why it is not necessary to take a cue from other civic leaders and hold a constituent coffee hour. This would give residents a chance to share their concerns, suggestions and questions about town issues that are important to them. Ultimately, having a direct feedback loop might not be convenient for the supervisor’s staff (who would be required to staff such an event) but the extra mile in direct feedback is worth getting a quality cup of coffee.
Editor’s note: Mr. Carroll was a member of the supervisor’s staff last year, serving as town budget officer from Feb. 20 through March 27.
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