In the blog I posted yesterday, I outlined the problem Houston’s 3-1-1 program has with abandoning calls. Today, I will spotlight what is, arguably, the biggest problem with 3-1-1: your city council members have no idea what problems you are calling 3-1-1 about!
The is no system in place for collecting information from 3-1-1 and sending it to your council members. Here’s an example. Let’s say you call 3-1-1 because water is backing up in the ditch behind your house because of clogged pipes/outlets (a common problem in Houston). So you call and wait and wait. Nothing happens. By this time, your neighbors start noticing the problem too, and they call 3-1-1 as well. Since a few people now made note of the situation, 3-1-1 finally sends out someone to inspect and maybe clean the ditch. Temporarily the water resides, but when heavy rain hits down again, you face the same problem. Year after year, you and your neighbors call 3-1-1 about this, and you wonder why no one will address the problem by fixing the outlet of the ditch to better collect debris before it has a chance to clog. To make matters worse, your city council member just announced the flooding projects he or she is planning in your district, and your area isn’t on the list.
Sound familiar? The reason why nothing gets done is because your city council member probably doesn’t know that you have a problem at all! 3-1-1 does not alert the elected official’s office and tell them anything. Even if you call your council member’s office instead of 3-1-1, all they do is call your complaint into 3-1-1 for you.
Here is the solution: require 3-1-1 to send over a report to each council member each week. It could not be that difficult to do if the information is entered into a computer system similar to the one the state uses. I can run a report in my office in less than a minute. How many people had a problem with their food stamp card this week? … DONE. It’s that easy! I am shocked that this isn’t standard practice. How could a city council member possibly know what changes need to take place in their district if they have no idea what their constituents have problems with? You can’t fix something you don’t know exists.