Parks and streets — value you can view

Ask folks why they live where they do, and few are likely to pipe up: “Efficient municipal services!”

But it matters in some of the everyday comforts that affect your quality of life: The streets you drive. The parks your kids enjoy.

Give a city all the money in the world, and you would never hit a pothole; your child would never frolic in a rundown playground. But in the real world, cities have to provide services with limited money and manpower. They typically have to make do with what they have.

So how good a job does your city do?

The Kansas City Star’s findings may shock you.

Dollar for dollar, Kansas City put up high scores in The Star’s computer analysis of government efficiency for tending to — believe it or not — thousands of miles of heavily traveled streets.

Overall, with some exceptions, cities whose residents were most satisfied with their streets and parks were not necessarily the most efficient.

That doesn’t mean those residents are wrong. It just means their cities may not be as thrifty as others.

The Star’s data analysis, while not perfect, can help governments make better decisions.

City departments that scored well might be trusted to do even better if given your tax dollars to do more. Those faring poorly could boost their rating by surfacing additional street miles on the same budget, or adding park features that attract more visitors.

Bottom line: People may not talk much about “efficient municipal services,” but in today’s political climate they’re more important than ever.

“Being efficient can give governments more credibility,” said James Fountain, formerly of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board.

With streets and parks, at least, The Star found several cities that deserve more credibility.

Who’s best?

Five cities tied for top street services:Kansas City, Leavenworth, Lee’s Summit, Prairie Village and Shawnee

Three cities tied for top parks services:Belton, Overland Park and Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan.

City Services: Who's doing the best job?