Before the emergence of Coffee Parties, we saw, locally, the advent of Somervillevoices.org, a courageous and worthy experiment in a 21st Century democratic, community- controlled public media forum, and of the much heralded, government- built Resistat program. I think it promised greater (sic) government accountability, efficiency, transparency, etc., etc. My conceptualization of the latter two approximately proximitous events is that Resistat cannot make legitimate claim to even a modicum of success without the community exercising our rights- and responsibilities- to monitor this and other government programs through our participation in Somervillevoices.org (our Internet presence makes us uniquely positioned), however vital local access TV, public radio, etc., are. Why not conserve energy by maximizing the effectiveness of existing tools? It is in the spirit of Coffee parties that I share a recent experience with Resistat. You probably won’t find it in the Mayor’s next Resistat report.
In early March I submitted the following concern (paraphrased, and pasted from that site):
Friday, March 5, 2010
TRAFFIC: Pedestrian signal at Highland in Davis Square
Question/Comment: A resident says the pedestrian walk signal at Highland Ave. , where it intersects College Ave. , Elm St. , and Holland Ave. in Davis Square has been malfunctioning for several months. S/he elaborates that the digital clock that counts down the 20 seconds allowed for crossing Highland and Elm randomly skips as many as 5 numbers at a time. As s/he describes the problem, it does not occur every time the walk light signal is activated, making it seem as thought the problem has been repaired at times. S/he says a typical scenario is that the seconds will count down from 20 to 11, then skip over 10 to 7, so in effect it goes from 11 seconds remaining to 6 seconds remaining, creating a safety hazard for pedestrians.
I am proud to say it received three, 5-star ratings- but little else.
So, on March 17, I followed up with another email to Resistat:
Subject: Recent post RE Pedestrian Signal at Highland in Davis
Thank you for posting my submission below. However, I had hoped for a reply, and I believed that my post would automatically be forwarded to the appropriate authorities. I would appreciate you advising me whether the latter action has been taken, and whether I can anticipate a reply in the near future….
I received a prompt reply:
…All questions and comments received that I cannot answer myself are forwarded to the appropriate department within the City. Once I receive a response and it is posted on the blog, I e-mail a link to the post to the person who submitted the comment.
…Your question regarding the pedestrian signal was sent to Steve MacEachern, the Superintendent of Lights and Lines… The Department of Public Works often gets backlogged at this time of year…I’m happy to follow-up on this issue again, or if you would like, feel free to contact him directly in the Department of Public Works at 617-625-6600 x5100…
Today is April 22. I opted, until now, not to take further action. I wanted, you know, to give the process a chance to work. Alas, the DPW must indeed be busy. Traffic in Davis Square is very busy too…I HOPE OTHERS WILL FOLLOW SUIT AND share your stories. I do not imagine that there is a category in the official ‘stats’ kept by Resi- ‘stat’ that tracks and categorizes residents’ contacts to the City that have not resulted in resolution, timely or otherwise, satisfactory or not, communicated to the petitioner or not. What have your experiences been? Have a story to tell, but don’t consider yourself a (public) storyteller? Maybe you don’t want to get anyone in trouble or publicly identify yourself. Maybe someone can suggest a way the blog can track, monitor and record readers’ and writers’ experiences with this one facet of local government service that will not require disclosure of sensitive details. These are dangerous times in which we live…