As the third-largest city in the State of Arizona and one of the largest cities in the Unites States, Mesa is taking a proactive approach to learning about our community needs. We decided that the best way to help our residents, our non-profits and our business community was to go directly to the source and ask.
This early research is key to helping Mesa elected officials decide the best use of the federal funding that was coming to the municipality as part of the CARES Act that was passed by Congress on March 27.
It was extremely important that our citizens feel a strong connection with their city and know that we are working for them and we care about them.
On April 6, the city moved quickly to launch MesaCARES, a citywide initiative that assesses community needs resulting from COVID-19. Leaders re-assigned 100 city employees who were working remotely to temporarily assist in this program. Staff came from various departments throughout the City, including bi-lingual individuals.
The goal: to be able to respond and provide needed support and resources. MesaCARES staff reached out to community members, including non-profits, faith-based agencies, business and industry leaders, as well neighborhood leaders and many others using telephone calls, emails or social media messages. These groups and individuals were invited to share their concerns, needs and requests with city leadership for where the city should direct its resources in the wake of COVID-19.
In addition to its outreach to residents, the city also launched the Mesa CARES Community Resource Call Center. Managed by the Mesa Public Library, the Community Resource Call Center is a one-stop shop for businesses and Mesa residents to get information and referrals for available community services.
Librarians and other staff members man the phones seven days a week in English and Spanish. They actively listen to the concerns to understand the needs of the callers, provide information and, most importantly, show that Mesa cares.
Mesa’s Vice Mayor Mark Freeman, recently shared all the details of Mesa CARES with members of the National League of Cities’ Large Cities Council weekly peer networking insights call. The hope was that other local elected officials could use all or part of the program in their own cities to help reach their residents.
Providing our community with an open and direct line of communication to the city and being able to refer residents to essential resources during this time has been extremely well received.
“Citizens feel connected to their City and know their voice is being heard and listened to. It also gave us the opportunity to utilize employees whose jobs were directly affected by the closure of City facilities. It was a win-win situation all around.”
The City Council was presented with the findings of the surveys at a recent meeting and the work has begun on how to allocate the dollars we will receive.
I encourage other cities to visit our Mesa CARES website, and see the different services we are providing to the Mesa community.
About the Author: David Luna is a Councilmember representing the Fifth District of Mesa, Arizona. He also serves as the President of NLC’s Hispanic Elected Local Officials (HELO).