City of Perris for Public Outreach to Disadvantaged Community
An Example of Partnership, Perseverance, and Breaking Down Barriers…
For several years, the community of Enchanted Heights in the city of Perris was besieged by failing septic tanks which spewed raw sewage during rain events. It was not unusual to see children stepping carefully to avoid sewage in the streets on their way to school. Pools of contaminated water throughout the neighborhood served as breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other swarming insects, increasing the threat of disease and virus transmission. Although the solution to this problem was obvious—build a sewer system—the funding proved elusive. In addition, other barriers such as language, technological, trust, and accessibility existed.
Realizing that most projects of this scope require a regional approach to be successful, the City partnered with the County of Riverside and Eastern Municipal Water District to apply for $15 million in funding from two state agencies. To address the communication and trust barriers, City staff started the outreach process by talking to individual residents in front of their homes. Soon after, the City Manager and the Assistant City Manager met on a Saturday morning with a large group of residents at a homeowner’s backyard. Conversations about the benefits of the project began to occur. In the following weeks, City staff spent entire days walking the neighborhood to distributing flyers. Flyers, organized forums, a separate web page, and video public service announcements (PSAs) were created in English and Spanish. Forums proved invaluable to the City because they gave residents the opportunity to express their concerns. The multipronged public outreach effort ended successfully with the majority of Enchanted Heights residents signing the Right of Entry forms allowing construction on their lots.
The project broke ground on August 22, 2011. It is expected to be completed in 2013. The City’s public outreach efforts, in connection with this project, have been recognized throughout the State and have been featured in several workshops and training sessions concerning effective outreach to disadvantaged communities.
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