Wednesday, March 25, 2009


KISS - as in "Keep It Simple Stupid" is a great philosophy to follow when managing anything.

This blog is not about graffiti.  Instead, it is about reporting and following up anything which impacts on our quality of life - fallen trees, fallen power lines, pot holes in roads, unsafe foot paths, worn out park furniture, broken fencing, failed street lighting, boats that have slipped their moorings, burnt out cars, weed infestations, smashed bus shelters, abandoned cars, faded line markings, broken rubbish traps, useless signage, dumped rubbish, clogged drains - you name it.  Yes, I do report a lot of graffiti and vandalism, but that is not what this is about.  

The standard of our quality of life is dependent on thousands of people taking care of many, many little things every day in our "public spaces".  Inspections have to be carried out and routine maintenance performed.  If the inspections are not being undertaken, or the wrong things are being inspected, or if maintenance requirements are being ignored, then our built environment starts to degrade.  Our roads fall apart.  Bridges rust.  Signs fall over.  Trees get tangled in power lines.  Drains clog and overflow at the first shower of rain.  Wooden furniture rots and splits in the sun and rain.  Paint fades on road markings.  Street lights fail.

And apart from natural wear and tear, we also have man-made wear and tear on our public assets in the form of malicious damage, vandalism and graffiti.  Lights are smashed, signage is ripped up, fences are torn down, seating is broken, trees are trashed, rubbish bins are set on fire, fast food wrappers are dropped on the ground, bus shelters are smashed up, cars are left on the side of the road to rot and of course marker pens and spray cans are used to tag anything that doesn't move.

Some of these things are picked up during routine asset inspections by the authorities responsible, but many of them are not.  Most of the authorities responsible for what I would term the "maintenance of the public space" have been hollowed out over the last two decades by downsizing and contracting out.  That is not necessarily a bad thing - it has saved the taxpayer a fortune.  

However, the downside is that they no longer have the "eyes and ears" on the ground that they once had.  The days of the electricity company sending someone out to a substation to do a manual meter reading and inspection are long gone - now, it is all done remotely by a computer.  If someone does have to be sent out to do some work on site, chances are, they will be a contractor - and contractors are paid to do a specific task, not look for graffiti or damaged fences etc.  Even if they do notice something and want to report it, there may be no mechanism for a report to go from their company to the authority that has engaged them.

The days of there being a "someone" in the company to visually inspect an asset, report it and fix it are long gone - and they're not coming back.

So if you care about these things in the slightest, then we need a replacement "someone" - that someone is you and me.

This blog therefore covers my experiences at being a "someone", and my refusal to see many things as "somebody else's problem".  I've had some failures along the way, but on the whole, the great majority of problems that I have spotted and reported have been fixed.  If you are interested in being a "someone", I hope this blog can provide some guidance and encouragement.

I started this article with the KISS principle because many organisations that I deal with appear to have never heard of it.  After reporting many, many problems over the last year, I have decided to put the majority of my efforts into encouraging organisations to simplify their processes for dealing with the sorts of issues that I report.  If their processes were perfect, there would be no need for you and me to be reporting problems.  

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