D.C. residents to assign agencies grades online

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

District residents are now able to submit instant feedback about their experiences at D.C. agencies, data that the city will use to assign offices and departments real-time grades for customer service.

"We want to continue to make it easier for citizens to be able to communicate with their government and provide us with the feedback we need to continue improving," Mayor Vincent Gray said outside the inspection station for the Department of Motor Vehicles, one of five agencies participating in a pilot of the new website. "I don't think there's any substitute for resident feedback. By holding ourselves accountable with the vast amount of feedback that already is out there -- and there will be more as a result of this -- I think it will improve government services."

The platform, developed by District-based newBrandAnalytics, will harvest feedback from Facebook, Twitter, text messages and a city website to generate reports for D.C. leaders. The reports and accompanying letter grades will be available publicly beginning July 11.

311 remains
The city's 311 line for service calls will remain in place even as Grade.DC.Gov comes online, Mayor Vincent Gray said. The service, which handles requests like broken parking meters and street light repairs, can also be accessed online at 311.dc.gov and through a smartphone app.

Sean O'Leary, the CEO of newBrandAnalytics, said the technology was the first of its kind in the United States.

"They are sticking their neck out for their clients and their residents and their constituents in this instance by posting these grades and then expecting that those grades are going to improve over time," said O'Leary, whose firm will receive about $500,000 over three years for the website.

Along with the DMV, the departments of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, Parks and Recreation, Public Works and Transportation will take part in the website. Gray said he hopes to expand the program to all city agencies by the end of the year.SClB"After we see how this operates with five agencies and work out any imperfections that exist, we'll expand it," Gray said.SClBThe mayor said, though, that he doesn't expect completely positive feedback about city services, estimating that his own office's marks would be "all over the park."

DMV Director Lucinda Babers said she thought agencies would benefit from more detailed comments from residents.

"This is an opportunity for us to perhaps get more information than 140 characters on Twitter will provide for us," said Babers, who urged D.C. residents to be specific in their feedback.

The site, O'Leary said, was off to a fast start. By midafternoon Wednesday, residents had already submitted 24 comments to the hours-old website.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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