American Societal Changes Affect Municipal Public Services

By Kemp, Roger L. | Parks & Recreation, December 2015 | Go to article overview

American Societal Changes Affect Municipal Public Services


Kemp, Roger L., Parks & Recreation


Widespread societal changes in the United States are having a dramatic impact on the types and levels of municipal public services provided in recent years by our cities to their citizens. This includes park and recreation offerings, which often involve many facets of public life, including feeding programs, health and wellness services, child care, cultural services, planning and economic development.

For our purposes here, societal changes currently affecting the dissemination of municipal public services, particularly those including and related to leisure services, may include:

* More sophisticated computer hardware systems and software applications, coupled with ease of access through Internet-based interfaces

* Wi-Fi, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) being used to improve the level of public services, as well as enhance economic development

* The influx of immigrants and an aging population creating new demands for public services

* Recent economic downturns creating a need for additional revenues and stretching thin existing municipal coffers

* Changing economics of American families, with many parents working full-time and little or no access to affordable child care

Impact on Public Services

These societal changes have influenced and impacted the services outlined below, among others. While not all of them fall under the parks and recreation umbrella, these services are all tangentially related to--and often have a direct impact on--community services offered or managed by park and recreation departments. The following bulleted lists capture just a handful of ways in which operations of these social services have been affected by the changes outlined above.

Economic Development

* GIS data, including environmental, income, population density and other census information, can help to stimulate economic development

* Government funds may be made available to redevelop contaminated brownfield sites that must be cleaned before they can be revitalized

Financial Services

* Adjustments to departmental user fees and charges can impact an agency's bottom line

* Many department managers, as well as their employees, can access their respective budgets online 247, throughout the year, to help facilitate better planning

* Coordinated efforts to save funds from the current approved budget to offset a projected deficit for the coming fiscal year are now common, as are joint purchasing programs with other cities, counties, councils-of-government and even state governments

Health Services

* More health-related educational programs are being provided to senior citizens

* A greater number of physical fitness workshops are being provided to senior citizens

* Many educational programs and services are being provided to reduce childhood obesity

* Health-related literature and programmatic offerings are commonly being made available to citizens of all ages

Information Technology (IT)

* State-of-the-art websites are increasingly commonplace to help citizens navigate all governmental departments, including management of registration for park and recreation events and services

* In some cases, organization-wide departmental user committees are formed to ensure that all municipal departments and functions are being properly served from an IT standpoint

* Social media is increasingly being used to announce events and information to the public

Parks and Recreation

* The expansion of feeding programs for both children and senior citizens

* The increased amount of programmatic offerings demanded by citizens of all ages

* The increased dissemination of health-related information, including encouraging healthier eating and exercise habits

* The placement and/or enlargement of computer rooms for community-wide Internet access

Planning and Building

* Some planning services, zoning maps and property assessment information may be obtained online, making it easier to envision new projects and compare services across municipalities

* Nationally, there has been some consolidation by states of the number of workforce training, tourism and planning districts (e. …

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