When it comes to the topic of politics, everyone seems to have an opinion…mostly negative. But today, I'd like to share a story where a citizen's needs, a tech-savvy politician and his iPhone app and Facebook page came together to get one pock-ridden street repaired with satisfying results.
I happen to be fortunate enough to live in a part of Los Angeles represented by Los Angeles City Councilmember Eric Garcetti, a visible and active representative whose commitment to constituency outreach began with personal open door "office hours" each month, alongside a "Constituent Bill of Rights" that promised phone calls made to his office would be returned within a single work day.
This commitment extended forward in 2010 when Garcetti launched an iPhone citizenry app, Garcetti 311 (there's an Android app, too), through which anyone in Echo Park, Silver Lake and the Northeast corner of Los Angeles could report "fix it" problems (graffiti, abandoned cars, fallen trees, potholes, lost hipsters, etc). It was a natural evolution of merging social networking with local politics, and thankfully the app release wasn't just a short-lived PR stunt, empowering anyone with an iOS or Android device into a mobile citizens brigade of do-goodery.
As anyone living in a major city knows, the problems mentioned above are commonplace, making these instant and mobile avenues of reporting a welcome addition to the options a resident can turn to for resolution. I've used my better half's iPhone on walks to report abandoned mattresses or graffiti, but it was actually through Garcetti's active Facebook page where a more personal matter was addressed this week.
Potholes are a common issue here in a city rife with streets in need of touch-up or resurfacing. But our street, a hyphen length of residential asphalt that extends out to a busy thoroughfare, had degraded into what I would refer to as "Edward James Olmos Blvd." (I love Mr. Olmos/Admiral Adama!), with potholes dotted across a Frankenstein patchwork of previously stitched repaired sections. Drive across the street with a cup of milk and a scoop of protein powder, and by the end of the short ride you'd have a delicious smoothie and worn out shocks.
The series of winter rainstorms further reduced our street to a scabby sad mess, which often felt more like a country road rather than a city street. Except for emergency situations, getting a street repaired can be akin to winning the lottery, since the needs throughout the city outweigh the resources. Thankfully, Garcetti (and likely a small team of assistants) scan his Twitter feed and Facebook page for citizen reports and requests. I was amongst those reporting a need for street repair after the last two large storms after he posted a call out for streets in need of attention. Via his Facebook page, I received a direct response inquiring for further details (location, extent of repair needed), followed up by acknowledgement that the request was recorded.
Several weeks later, our street is now busy with construction-repair, being completely ripped out by gigantic machinery that would give Michael Bay aspirations for yet another Transformers sequel, all in preparation of being resurfaced to a smooth finish like Heidi Montag's plastic surgery work. The cacophony of construction clatter is music to this fella's ears, as I know in a day or two I'll no longer have to traverse my street with the maneuvering skills of Jason Bourne and my VW's suspension will suffer no longer. All this thanks to a progressive and technologically savvy city councilman and the help of social networking technology and mobile apps!