311 M.I.A. during Vancouver's heavy rain storms

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

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311 had it's "soft launch" on February 16, 2009. We're now counting the days until Vision makes it "official"

**See our new 311 Count-up Clock™ at the top of the web page!

It's been raining a lot in Vancouver lately. It's the kind of weather that has caused havoc all over the South Coast. Whether it's plugged drains, downed trees or flooded roads, Vancouverites have been counting on city officials to help them weather the storm.

One would think that the most recent bout of terrible weather would provide the rationale to finally launch the long awaited 311 service. After all, 311 is all about helping citizens deal with the kind of non-emergencies Vancouver has experienced over the last few weeks. Yet the Mayor and his Vision caucus appear content allowing 311 to remain invisible to the citizens who are paying for the service. When you compare this to how every other major city in North America promotes their 311 service, you have to ask why the City of Vancouver remains mum.

Take for example two separate news releases issued by Vancouver's esteemed communications department over the last month. The first one was sent to the media on October 16th warning the public of bad weather and the need to keep storm drains clear. Murray Whiteman (the guy many people actually think should be the Mayor of the city) stated:

The forecast is for steady rain over the next few days and that, combined with leaves already off the trees, will quickly cause catch-basin grates to clog and water to overflow. It would be a tremendous help if people would take a moment this weekend to clear leaves from around the catch basins near their homes, businesses and buildings.

Despite all the investments in 311, there was not a single mention in the news release of this service. Apparently not one person in the communications department felt it might be a good thing to advise the public they could call 311 if they needed to report any weather related non-emergencies to the city.

A second news release was issued on November 6th after the city continued to get battered by wind, rain and clogged drains. Yet again, there was not a single mention of 311 in the release. The communication staff did find time however to calculate how many leaves could fit into "Smart Cards". We think they meant to say Smart Cars:

Each year, City of Vancouver crews pick up an estimated 5,000 tonnes of leaves, which is equal to filling half of Science World or 10,000 Smart Cards.

The fact that Vancouver is now in the middle of a stormy El Niño winter and it hasn't properly promoted the 311 service is inexcusable. City Manager Penny Ballem needs to be held accountable for the delays in formally launching the 311 program and should immediately let the public know what is holding it up. You'd think management would be a bit more sensitive to these issues given how poorly Ballem mishandled the Snowmageddon file last winter.

In the interim, we've dusted off our old Raymond Louie Campaign Disclosure Countup Clock™ and converted it to a new 311 Count-up Clock™. As you recall, 311 had a soft launch back on Feb 16th of this year, and we're going to be counting how many days it takes Ms. Ballem & Co. to actually let citizens in on the city's best kept secret. **See the top of each page of CityCaucus.com to see how many days 311 has been in operation, but not officially announced by the City of Vancouver.

We get the fact Vision voted against 311 and they don't want a single legacy from the previous regime to be successful. However, unnecessarily delaying the promotion of 311 as a tool to handle non-emergencies in Vancouver is now simply appearing peevish and a wasted resource.

1 Comment

If 311 was only for reporting non-emergency city problems, ie downed trees and plugged drains, it might have a chance but what about the elimination of receptionist/switchboard operators at places like the Park Board. If you call the head office number there now, you get a 311 operator (if you are lucky, within 10 minutes of holding). Before 311, your call was swiftly assessed and forwarded to the correct Park Board staffer. I call that another penny wise and pound foolish notion. I happen to know that most City staff think that the 311 concept has been abused and strayed far from its original intention.

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