Monday, August 9, 2010

Even Late At Night, My 311 Job Is Never Done!

Photo and blog post by John Hoff

When I'm in Minneapolis--as opposed to out on the road trucking or whatever--I call 311 at least once a day, but there are often days where I walk the streets and make up to a dozen calls in a period of a few hours. 311 is like a powerful genie to be unleashed upon the weedy lawns of vacant houses, unsecured buildings haunted by squatters, potholes the size of an automobile tire, you name it.

Sure, sometimes I will collect phone books from vacant properties, even mow grass...but I can't exactly fill in a pothole on my own, can I?

Inevitably, the 311 operators go through their procedure and remind me how a 311 report can be filed online. And I always respond....

"Oh, don't worry, I make reports that way, too. But right now, um, I happen to be walking around, so, um...."

The operators tell me I can write the stuff down and report it later. But that's not the system I use. I either call while I'm right there, looking at the problem, or I snap a picture.

Later, when I download dozens of pictures to my laptop, I go through the photos and remember what problem I was documenting. I always make a point of taking a picture that reveals the address of the problem, even if I have to snap a photo of a street sign.


Once I have my pictures downloaded, I start firing off emails to 311 with the photos attached. This often takes place at, like, midnight. It might even take place several states away, while I'm out of town. Sometimes there's one or two photos which need to be forwarded to 311. Sometimes there's dozens, and I have to work my way through the photos over the course of several days, when I have a free moment.

The problems being documented for 311 are not always in North Minneapolis. Sometimes--as in the photo above--the problem might be at 609 Cedar Ave., in the West Bank neighborhood.


Patrick said...

Thanks for choosing the most expensive way to use the 311 system. While it's great you care enough to make the reports, taxpayers would prefer you take the hint from the 311 representative and make your reports online.

Patrick said...


I share your disdain for using the flesh of dead trees, but that doesn't mean that email attachments are a good thing.

Email attachments cause a lot of deadly carbon to be released into the atmosphere too.

Maybe you could just try to be really descriptive in your email 311 reports instead of using so many attachments. I know that's what I do.