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Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

Beach parking fees on Mayor Sanders’ agenda?

Posted by George J Janczyn on March 4, 2010

At yesterday’s San Carlos Area Council meeting, President John Pilch said that Mayor Sanders recently attended a Past Grand Juror’s Association luncheon and wanted to know how many people support paid parking at the beach. Mr. Pilch asked for a show of hands in this meeting as well. This stimulated a few questions and a little discussion.

One outspoken individual, who said he was born and raised in Ocean Beach and owns commercial property there, said that he had suggested the fee. He said in a community he saw in Virginia with a beach parking fee “the beach is clear, the homeless folk are not all over the place…like, just simply walk down to the foot of Newport in Ocean Beach and you can’t sling a dead cat without hitting some homeless folks and panhandlers and all that sort of stuff.”

A woman then asked him, “Just how would charging a fee change the homeless population?”

The man continued, “Well, also they clean the beach, police the beach, they hire college students during the summer, they clean the area up, there’s a greater security presence, it prevents people from parking their motor homes there, from sleeping there, we could buy fire rings.”

People wanted more details. Mr. Pilch said the basic idea is to install parking meters at the beaches, which would accept cash (paper or coin), credit card, or parking card. One idea for the fee would be between $5-8, whether you stay the whole day or not. 45% of meter revenue would go toward improvements in that community.

(I’m curious about that because my understanding was that the high-tech “pay and display” meters they’re using downtown allow the purchase of individual amounts of time)

Most people didn’t seem to like the idea of having a fixed day-use fee as opposed to hourly metering. Then people started wondering about other ways of funding things, but the president had to stop discussion because it was just an informal poll not on the agenda, and asked for a show of hands. A large majority voted no for beach parking fees.

So, I wonder what was behind the mayor bringing this up with the (old) grand jury?

Posted in Government, Politics | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

San Diego’s state of the city staff directory

Posted by George J Janczyn on January 11, 2010

On the City of San Diego’s website there’s one thing you won’t find: a staff directory. There’s no printed directory either. Even though the city proudly rolled out a redesigned website last Nov. 20, its “directory” information is still limited to department pages with a department head’s name, sometimes with a few upper-level officials also named. Otherwise, if you want to know who holds which positions and their telephone numbers and email/contact information, you’re out of luck.

A staff directory is not for show, it’s an important catalog of people and their positions in city operations. Not having a staff directory impedes public access and contributes to the perception of a remote and secretive bureaucracy. A well-designed staff directory shows what the city is all about and enables people to engage with and relate to city staff more effectively. For that matter, a listing of employee and/or department blogs, if they exist, would be a nice component of a directory. The city’s organization chart graphic on the website may impress by its appearance but is not otherwise useful and is certainly no substitute for a good directory.

La Mesa has a staff directory with names and position titles.

The directory for Los Angeles has detailed personnel listings for many departments.

San Francisco’s directory gives you each employee’s name (although not title) and phone number listed by department.

My first inquiries about San Diego’s lack of a directory were eventually referred to the public information specialist at the Citizen’s Assistance program. That person couldn’t find an answer and told me to ask at the Mayor’s office. Unfortunately, despite repeated calls and emails to the Mayor’s office for over a month there has been no response to my questions.

It seems to me that city employee names, titles, and contact details are public information and therefore a directory should be available to the public. Who knows, maybe someone decided the city can’t afford a directory (but they could afford to redesign their website). It’s hard to believe though, that there isn’t already an internal directory to enable city staff to communicate with one another and porting that information to the website for public viewing should not be difficult.

At the very least the Mayor’s office should say why a directory isn’t available to the public (in the past, there used to be a directory, according to the Citizen’s Assistance office). Disregarding repeated questions about it is inexcusable.


 

March 15, 2010: Today, months later, I tweeted about the mayor’s office’s failure to respond and the mayor’s press secretary Rachel Laing was right on top of it:

 

Followed by:

 

 

[good thing I got the screen shots, she apparently has deleted those tweets]

So, instead of answering my question why there isn’t a directory, they’re now arguing with this post which I wrote only after the mayor’s office refused to state a reason for not having one.

There is no law that requires cities to publish a City Directory, but it’s too bad the mayor’s office has such a negative attitude about it. They could choose the enlightened approach of the other two largest cities in California (and even La Mesa) noted above. Of course, city directory information is disclosable per the California Public Records Act, and it would appear that’s the only way San Diego will give up that information.

 

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Don’t worry, be happy, our water’s safe

Posted by George J Janczyn on December 17, 2009

“It’s way too premature to push the panic button.”

Sort of like “very unique.” That’s what Dennis Cushman, assistant general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority is quoted saying in today’s Union-Tribune front-page story about the Superior Court lawsuit challenging the Quantification Settlement Agreement-based contract for transferring water from Imperial Valley to San Diego.

This is the 4th or 5th time I’ve heard or read of a water official or politician revoking the panic button in the last week or so.

No matter how the lawsuit gets decided, it’s a side-issue. The bigger issue is San Diego’s excessive reliance on imported water. Instead of inducing complacency about our water supply by repeating a politically expedient dismissal of this threatening case and making San Diegans more at ease about our water supply, our local water leaders and lawmakers should use this as an opportunity to vigorously pursue an increase in public understanding of the need to support projects that reduce our dependence on imported water.

The construction of a desalination plant in Carlsbad will certainly contribute new water to the county’s pipelines, although it’s an extremely expensive operation for producing water locally.

Curiously, as an aside, local media and water officials have been silent about the federal lawsuit that also threatens the water transfer.

But one more potentially large new source of potable local water lingers in the background, as I wrote a few days ago in water reuse is imperative for a sustainable San Diego, and it’s less expensive than desalination. Instead of sidetracking public sentiment with cliche “don’t worry” statements, our leaders need to reinforce and hold the long-term view in the public mind. Water reuse is one area that could use more attention.

Posted in Government, Politics, Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), Water | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Getting our streets fixed

Posted by George J Janczyn on December 1, 2009

Back on November 16 while driving in my neighborhood on Everglades Avenue I came across a road hazard: broken asphalt around a manhole cover. I filed a report with the San Diego City Street Division on their online service request form. I also had these pictures but the form had no provision for including them.

 

Tonight, almost three weeks later, I received this email message from the Street Division:

From: “street_service@sandiego.gov”
To: “Janczyn, George”
Content-Class: urn:content-classes:message
Date: Tue, 1 Dec 2009 18:23:20 -0800
Subject: Street Response

Thank you for your recent request to Street Division. We have determined from the information provided that this area of responsibility belongs to: Metro Wastewater Department, they can be reached by calling 619-515-3525, option #2.

Of course it should not have taken almost three weeks for this response which appears to involve no investigation beyond reading my report. It also would have been appropriate and polite for them to have forwarded the problem report to the Wastewater Department themselves instead of telling me to call. I suspect the repair would be carried out by the same crew but it’s a financial responsibility thing.

The city would really do well to develop a 311-reporting service and get departments to communicate with each other, as I recently wrote in this suggestion for dealing with such fix-it problems. In the meanwhile, I’ll make I made the call. While I’m at it, I’ll pass along a copy of this to the U-T’s “Just Fix-it” column.

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Getting things fixed around town

Posted by George J Janczyn on November 24, 2009

The U-T has a “Just Fix it” column you can contact if there is “a problem government hasn’t taken care of despite your complaints.” The column’s writer selects cases and follows up by contacting the appropriate agency and resolving communication issues or other impediments to the solution. Good PR for the U-T although the scope of service is by necessity limited by space and time.

I wonder why the U-T or another news organization (or the city, for that matter) doesn’t take advantage of one of the online services that let people easily request 311-type government services, facilitating the process of getting requests routed to the appropriate agency and tracking them for follow-through.

Such services allow people to report problems from their mobile devices in addition to their computers and even to include photos in their reports. People can see what else is being reported in their areas and add their “vote” to issues already submitted that they are also concerned about.

Take a look at some of these offerings.

http://www.seeclickfix.com/
A neighborhood reporting system that has been established for some time

http://www.zeemaps.com/
Another reporting system

http://geotrac.demo.topplabs.org/query
Another reporting system

http://www.fixmystreet.com/
An example from Great Britain

http://open311.org/
A website meant to facilitate an international effort to build open interoperable systems that allow citizens to more directly interact with their cities.

On the live SeeClickFix map you can hover a spot to view details

 

Having such a system for San Diego could lead to better service, reach new constituents, and facilitate interagency collaboration. Wouldn’t something like this be a handy resource for our community?

Apr 12, 2010: O’Reilly Radar just published this review of SeeClickFix.

 

Posted in Government, Internet, Newspapers, Technology | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »