Saturday, June 7, 2008

Dealing with councils - part II

Back in mid-May, I decided to write to the General Manager of Canada Bay Council with the aim of getting him to encourage his staff to take a more pro-active approach to dealing with graffiti and other infrastructure problems within our local government area.  I wrote this letter because I sometimes think that many council staff must be roaming around the suburbs with their eyes wide shut.  


13 May 2008

 Mr Gary Sawyer

The General Manager
City of Canada Bay
Locked Bag 1470
Drummoyne  2047 


Dear Mr Sawyer

 Detection and reporting of graffiti etc in the Canada Bay area

 Over the last few years, I have reported a number of issues to Council staff – I am probably all over your records management system like a rash.  

On the whole, the response by Council staff has been excellent.  Your staff have been responsive, and most of the problems have been fixed reasonably quickly.  I am quite satisfied in general with how the Council deals with issues once it knows about them.

 However, I do have one question for you.  According to the latest Council Annual Report, you currently have 294 full time equivalent staff working for you.  I presume that these people work and shop within the Canada Bay area, and they obviously travel through it to get to Council depots and offices, or to locations for Council inspections and meetings.  In short, your staff should be criss-crossing the Council area on a daily basis, with some areas receiving multiple visits by staff either on your time or theirs. 

If we accept that’s the case, why is it that I find myself reporting so many abandoned cars, vandalised playgrounds, instances of graffiti and so on?  Do you think that your staff are pulling their weight when it comes to reporting pot holes, graffiti, vandalism and so on?  

I don’t mean to sound harsh, but I’ve found from experience that the people within an organisation are the least likely to report problems that affect that organisation.  They have their job to do, and as an example, they may view vandalism of a Council park that they are picnicking in on a weekend as “somebody else’s problem”.  

If you want to see what I am talking about, pay a visit to the library at Five Dock.  Don’t drive into the underground car park – park on the street and walk around the building.  Take a good look at the graffiti in Fred Kelly place, the vandalised bus stops on Great North Road, the vandalised street signs and RTA signal boxes, the vandalised shop signage in the laneway leading to Supa Barn and the graffiti on the outside of the library.  

The library is presumably run by Council staff, and I guess that they would have to venture outside from time to time to eat, bank, shop etc etc.  Yet have they ever noticed the vandalism around them, let alone reported it?

 I’d appreciate it if you could encourage your staff to look at our suburbs with a fresh set of eyes; to start noticing these sorts of things, and most importantly, reporting them.  

And not just problems with Council assets – if they notice RTA property has been damaged, they should report it to the RTA.  If Energy Australia substations have been vandalised, they should report that to Energy Australia.  If Telstra phone boxes or exchanges have been hit, they should report that to Telstra.  


Here is the response that I got:

Now I don't wish to sound narky here, but I just drove past the Council Chambers and dead across the road from their front door is a vandalised electricity substation - one of the substations that Energy Australia has kindly repainted in the last 3 months.  Just around the corner is a vandalised Telstra exchange building.  Across the road diagonally from the Chambers are several private properties that have vandalised fences facing the street, and the Council Chambers.

If Council staff aren't noticing that and doing something about it, then all the systems in the world won't do you much good.  I will be following up on this letter later this week.


PS - one thing to note is that a day or two after I sent this letter, all the graffiti around the Council library in Five Dock was painted over.  Even if Council staff are not actively running around reporting problems, they are fixing them quickly once they are told about them.  As I like to say, "Report it and it will be fixed".

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