The GUARDIAN has come to the conclusion we need to have a single ombudsman for all city departments to act on behalf of citizens when it comes to resolving minor disputes, providing access to knowledgable officials, and generally being a voice for citizens.
Over the years we have seen a marked disconnect between citizens and those we permit to represent us. For instance the chances of making contact with a human being when you call city hall, police, fire, or most offices is close to “0”.
Most of the time you get a recording telling you to leave a message or go to the internet. For many of us that translates to, “We can’t be bothered by you. Just go away.” Often as not calls are simply seeking information such as a phone number, name, trash policy, etc. Those calls used to be handled by a telephone operator who knew where to direct inquiries or even answer questions. Attempts to get “code enforcement” action are legendary.
Two administrations back they had the “Mayor’s Hotline” where folks could call in and alert elected councilors and the mayor about events. The summary of calls was a public record and provided great copy for the GUARDIAN.
Notable events were “strip hockey” at Ice World and driving two Zamboni ice grooming machines through the take out line at Burger King. The Zamboni story went worldwide.
After repeated stories from citizens were made public, Boise officials discontinued the hotline summary, thus depriving councilors of public concerns as well as good copy for the GUARDIAN.
Over the years we have solved many issues between citizens and officials simply by using common sense–like an ombudsman should do. When coppers smashed an apartment window during an arrest, the owner was stonewalled by a lieutenant and called the
GUARDIAN. A single phone call got the window fixed.
When multiple police converged on a house recently and left soon after, a reader complained it looked like a “wrong address drug bust.” Again the GUARDIAN learned it was a call from a frightened woman who was hiding in her bedroom after hearing what she thought was an intruder. Coppers did break down the door, but there was no intruder and the woman was relieved to have the response.
These examples should be handled by an ombudsman representing citizens who has unlimited access to city department heads and authority to be a “direct representative of the mayor.” This guy or gal could be “my contact at City Hall” for everyone.
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