Originally developed for a neighborhood leadership group, this
information will be helpful for you as you consider a problem-solving
Work with neighbors to identify the problem
Try to be as specific as possible about what the problem is and how it affects you and your neighbors.
Identify Potential Solutions
Try to identify what might improve the situation. In some cases, this
might be as simple as communicating with the person or property owner
involved. While this is clearly not always possible, it’s often the
most direct route to a solution.
Identify Potential Supporters
Who else might share the same problem or concern? Are they willing
to work with you do get a problem resolved? The more people who have
the same problem, the greater the likelihood the problem will get City
staff and/or elected officials’ attention. Also, your district council
(find yours here
is a great source of support for neighbors in terms of solving problems
at the neighborhood level, and if necessary, helping navigate City
Familiarize Yourself with the City Code
Government entities, including cities, must follow established law.
For cities, most of that law is found within their code, though the
State or Federal Government sets some of it. There is some room for
interpretation or discretion on the part of City staff and officials,
but all decisions must ultimately be justified by going back to the
code. Find the area of the code that addresses our problem or issue.
If your issue isn’t addressed in the code, policy makers may consider a
request to write an addendum to the code, but this is time consuming
and difficult. If your issue is in the code, and you can show that
your problem violates the code, your case will be much stronger.
Communicate with City Staff and Elected Officials
The first point of contact at the City for registering complaints
should be the information and complaint line at 651-266-8989. If the
issue is a police issue, call it in to the non-emergency number at
291-1111. If you don’t communicate with City staff or elected
officials, they may not be aware of your issue or concern. Don’t
assume that because your neighbors are all talking about an issue that
people at the City should automatically be aware that you have a
problem or concern. With smaller problems, a phone call may be all
that’s required to get a problem resolved. For larger issues, you may
need to communicate with several people over a period of time.
Here are some tips for communicating effectively with City staff and elected officials:
- Identify who you are.
- Identify the problem and how it affects you (keep it simple, but specific).
you have identified how you think the problem can be resolved, let them
know or ask for advice about how a problem can be resolved.
- Be polite. People will be more willing to help if you treat them respectfully.
persistent, but not relentless. Staff are working on many issues at
once, and it takes time to work through the problem with all players
involved. It is helpful to keep track of whom you’ve talked to at the
City and when, and when you speak to a staff member, agree on a
timeline for when you’ll talk again. And then, unless an emergency
arises, stick to that timeline. It will give the City staff more time
to work on resolving the issue.
- If you do not understand how or why a decision was made, ask for an explanation of City policy as it relates to your issue.
If the problem or issue you have is related to a decision
or action on the part of City staff, it is helpful to document the
timeline correspondence related to the case before contacting elected