Houston’s 311 system should be better than this (Suffering Dog/Indifferent Employee Edition)

Dog in bad shape on side of Richmond (via Houston 311 report)

Most blogHOUSTON readers are surely familiar with City of Houston 311 service, the city’s phone and internet system designed to address citizen requests and complaints about a vast array of municipal services. Residents are frequently encouraged by city leaders to use the service to get all sorts of things done.

In reality, the system works okay on some requests and not so well on others. For example, Mayor Turner prioritized pothole response after the Parker administration’s inability to repair potholes, and routine pothole repair in response to 311 requests has arguably improved from that very low base of comparison. In contrast, the traffic signal division of public works routinely either ignores requests to address mistimed/poorly sequenced traffic signals, files deceptive reports about “repairs” made in response to such requests, or is simply incapable of addressing the requests (more on that topic another time, but suffice it to say I have filed and tracked such requests).

And then there are the somewhat more ambiguous requests from citizens who are out and about in the city, see a problem they think should be addressed, and use their phone to report said problem, hoping the humans on the other side of the 311 system will be able to help.

Yesterday, one of those sorts of requests popped up while I was at work in an area I follow on 311 (near my home) — a heartbreaking request from a citizen with a mobile phone to help a dog lying on the side of the road:

One would hope the municipal employee receiving a note like this through the system would be moved to do SOMETHING for this poor creature — perhaps call Animal Control or BARC or some such.

But apparently such a common-sense, compassionate, humane response to a sad situation is not part of the City of Houston 311 training manual. Instead, this was the response:

That’s right — 311’s response was effectively “Not our problem — call BARC if you really care. We don’t.”

But hey, the 311 clerk did “clear” the issue the same day! So, hooray?

The City of Houston, its 311 system, and its employees should be so much better than this.

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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX