Sunday, October 26, 2008

The last post

This will be my last post for a while.  Not because I am giving up, but because I don't think I can add much value by continuing to repeat the same thing again and again and again.  

I started this blog with a couple of aims in mind.  One was to create a collection of photographic evidence that would be of assistance when arguing certain points with people or organisations.  I think if anyone was to stand up and say that we don't have a problem with vandalism on our electrical infrastructure for instance, they'd be laughed out of the building after viewing this blog.  Frankly, I didn't think we had much of a problem until I started taking photos and actually looking, and if it helps to change the minds of a few policy makers, then it's been worth the effort.

My second aim was to provide some examples of correspondence that other people could copy if they so wished.  Most people have very limited contact with government, and they don't know where to start.  I hope I've provided a few clues in that area.  If you want to copy any or all of my letters, go right ahead.  You wouldn't be the first - a few people have emailed me to say that they've found them to be quite useful.  

My third aim was to provide some backup evidence when communicating with an organisation, like Sydney Water.  You can only say so much in a letter.  A series of online colour photos and maps says so much more.   

My fourth aim was to show others that this sort of thing ain't that difficult.  We're getting all sorts of rubbish from the US at the moment about "Hope and change" - meaningless waffle from the greatest windbag to walk the earth.  It's no use endlessly talking about change - if you don't like something, you can change it with a few phone calls or the odd letter.  This blog is a call to action, if you like.  Don't whine about "the government hasn't done this and the government hasn't done that" if you haven't actually bothered to ask the government to do something for you.  

That said, I don't see the government as a magic cure-all for our problems.  It just happens that most of the problems that I've blogged about here relate to government owned infrastructure, or to issues that are the domain of government.  The consensus view in NSW at the moment is that our state government is an unmitigated disaster, and everything it touches turns to crud.  If you accept that view at the macro level, then you should accept the proposition that the organs of government are continually failing at a micro level.  That means that some things that our agencies are doing are not being done well - if they were performing admirably, then we would not have seen huge swings at the recent by-elections.  

If anyone from RailCorp or Energy Australia or Sydney Water is reading this and thinking, "this guy is an idiot - we are doing a wonderful job", then I have this to say - the judgement that the electorate cast at the recent by-elections was as much a vote on your performance as a vote on the performance of the state government.  Some of you may be doing an incredibly good job, but you're being let down by some non-performers, or some terrible policy that your Minister has lumped you with.

I also wanted to give some confidence to those that are skeptical of the value of contacting large organisations, like Energy Australia.  I have heard over and over again that it is not worth your time and effort to chase up a large organisation, because they'll just ignore the little guy.

That is not true - most of the time.  I think this blog proves that most big organisations are responsive in some way.  So long as you are polite and rational and asking for something sensible, you will probably get what you want in the end.

I did not set out to write an anti-graffiti blog.  I thought I'd be writing about pot holes and bent street signs and uncollected rubbish and blocked drains.  The graffiti thing just happened because I found so much of it when I went looking for the pot holes and blocked drains.  I don't know what the answer is when it comes to graffiti, but I have discovered this - some organisations are tackling it seriously, and others have stuck their heads in the sand and appear to be hoping that it all will just go away.  It won't.  I believe that if organisations are being hit by graffiti on a regular basis, then they need to have a systematic approach to detecting it and getting rid of it quickly.  

Let me repeat the key words in that sentence - systematic, detection and quickly.

My experience over the last few months is that almost every organisation that I have dealt with is failing to some degree at one or all of these three elements.

The best performer is Canada Bay Council.  The only place where I think they can do better is with detection, and they are improving in that area all the time.  They care, so they are putting the effort into self-improvement.  They also appear to be the only organisation that is putting some effort into doing a better job.

Energy Australia is reasonably quick to remove graffiti, but it is hopeless when it comes to detection and there appears to be no desire to take a systematic approach.  The Education Department, via our state schools, is in the same boat.

Sydney Water are a shocker on all three counts, as are Telstra and Australia Post.  

We don't have to put up with things the way they are.  Switzerland didn't get to be the way it is through its citizens sitting back and not giving a bugger or taking an interest in making things better.  At the other end of the spectrum is Somalia, a prime example of people not wanting to work together for the common good.  What would you prefer Sydney to look like - Switzerland or Somalia?  The path that we take is the sum of the actions of millions of citizens - are you willing to contribute a small amount of your time and effort in order to make your little bit of this city a nicer place, or are you content to let it all go to hell?

I can only do so much.  The rest is up to you.

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