- Since 2013, San Francisco has paid a PR agency $US400,000 to survey the cleanliness of its streets.
- In that time, the agency has doled out remarkably good scores – including last year’s near-perfect rating of commercial and residential neighbourhoods.
- Even the city’s budget analysts and auditors have questioned the veracity of the ratings, which seem to contradict their own mayor’s assessment.
San Francisco is set on discarding its reputation for filthy footpaths – but to what end?
NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit recently found that the city paid a public relations agency more than $US400,000 to survey the cleanliness of its streets. Since being hired by the city in 2013, the agency has awarded remarkably good scores to commercial and residential neighbourhoods, despite an increase in public complaints about trash, faeces, and discarded needles on the footpath.
Each year, the firm, JBR Partners, ranks streets and footpaths on a scale of 1 to 3, with 1 being “very clean” and 3 being “very dirty.” Last year, the city’s commercial neighbourhoods received a 1.18, while its residential neighbourhoods received a 1.06. At the same time, the city’s non-emergency-services system fielded around 21,000 complaints regarding human waste – more than double the amount it received four years ago.
In July, the city’s own mayor, London Breed, admitted there was “more faeces on the footpaths than [she’s] ever seen.”
The amount of money being funneled into the city’s cleanup programs is another sign that the filth is getting worse, not better. A recent report from the Budget and Legislative Analyst’s Office shows that San Francisco spent nearly $US54 million this year on street cleanup. Members of its “poop patrol” – whose exclusive job is to clean up faeces – earn more than $US184,000 a year in salary and benefits.
But, according to JBR Partners, San Francisco is cleaner than it’s been in years.
Even the city’s budget analysts and auditors question the veracity of this claim. According to the Bay Area Investigative Unit, the city’s Controller’s Office, which audits JBR’s performance standards, decided not to release its 2016-2017 cleanliness evaluation report amid concerns about the methodology.
“There is some concern that the performance measures, based on their methodology, might be flawed,” Dan Goncher, a public policy analyst for the city’s budget office, told the investigative unit. “Why are these performance measures showing improvement, when at the same time the number of complaints to the city has continued to increase year after year? That’s a real head scratcher, I think, for the city right now.”
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