Is your local street lamp burned out? Who ya gonna call...311
It's been months since Vancouver started a "soft launch" of the new $10 million dollar 311 program. When pressed by CityCaucus.com about why city officials were so mum on the new program, they said we should be patient. They promised a comprehensive media campaign would get underway this fall, however, it still remains a mystery as to when this will actually happen - if it ever happens at all.
If you recall, it was the previous NPA administration that asked the public service to find efficiencies in the system to pay for the annual costs of the new program. Once it becomes fully operational, Vancouver citizens will be able to access Vancouver City hall 24/7 and get service in multiple languages. The previous Vision caucus voted against the program.
Not surprisingly, Vision found the time and close to $250,000 to run an advertising campaign to promote the closure of one lane of the Burrard Street Bridge, but it can't seem to get its act together when it comes to promoting 311. Surely promoting the fact citizens and business owners no longer have to jump in their cars and drive to City Hall for a range of services could also be considered an environmental initiative? Perhaps if the Mayor thinks it's a green initiative he'll actually get behind it? Don't count on it.
With thousand of Olympic tourists descending on Vancouver in a few months, I would have expected Vancouver would have been heavily promoting 311 by now. It was initially anticipated the service could also help tourists who may be lost or looking for information about the city.
In other cities such as New York, they continuously promote 311 on the sides of buses, taxis, you name it. Ask any New Yorker if they would be prepared to give up their 311 service and I suspect only a handful would take you up on the offer. They love it.
Unfortunately, I think 311 has been caught up in yet another partisan battle of ideologies. It's not the first policy/program to have been impacted in this way over the last 12 months. After two years of consultation and five nights of public hearings, Vision has all but ignored the public feedback provided to the city as part of the award-winning EcoDensity initiative. I believe they've done so simply on the basis that it was developed by the previous NPA administration and therefore has no merit. If you don't believe me, simply look at Robertson's Green City initiative and try to find more than one reference to EcoDensity in the 70+ pages of the report.
For decades, Vancouverites have prided themselves on sending elected officials to City Hall who parked their partisanship at the door and made decisions in the best interest of the whole city. This is rapidly becoming a nostalgic concept as partisan politics (and a partisan public service) are becoming firmly entrenched at 12th and Cambie.
The 311 program is one of the best ways to connect Vancouverites with their City Hall. It's a shame that nobody in this government seems prepared to champion it and promote everything it has to offer to the good citizens of Vancouver.