I spent almost all of today on the telephone, but tonight I got to hang out with flesh and blood people and talk about community outreach.
The City of Springfield's 311 Call Center has been promoted as a helpmeet to the city's residents, but I have not warmed up to it. Sometimes It feels as if its main role is to protect city employees from having to deal with the public. When I'm calling a city department, it's usually because...hmm, let me see....oh, yes, it's because I want to talk to somebody in that department, not someone at the call center.
I called Helen Caulton-Harris at the Health and Human Services Department to see if she'd received the letter detailing the health risks of the wood-burning plant proposed for Springfield by Palmer Renewal Energy and got right through (to her voicemail, anyway).
I called the Election Office about a voter list and, as usual, was treated with friendliness and efficiency.
But getting through to the Department of Public Works to follow up on the tire tracks all over the neighborhood was a different story, one I won't bother to go into here, because I've already had my say to a call center supervisor and don't feel like getting anybody in trouble. Well, maybe I do-- but I won't, because my main goal was to find out how it happened that a DPW solid waste truck marked up so many streets in my neighborhood.
(However, seeing as I've made what appear to be anti-worker statements in my last two posts, let me just add that yeah, I may understand the surliness of workers in underpaid or job-insecure positions, but I don't excuse it. I've had my fair share of menial jobs in my working life, and they are only bearable by being the best human and doing the best job that you can.)
I'd posted a link to my DPW blog post on our local Springfield online forum, and had some interesting comments, one in particular by either a DPW worker or someone close to one. This person pointed to cutbacks in both drivers and mechanics, and talked about threats to employee and public safety.
Fellow blogger Mark Alamed, who writes the exquisite Exploring Western Massachusetts, emailed me a different idea.