Thursday, March 12, 2009

Real Quick: Mayor Ravenstahl's Ravenstahl Phone

We are in the midst of a major dissertation on potholes.

We just keyed in this long "sidebar" of a conversation that occurred immediately following Mayor Ravenstahl's pothole news conference. Considering how much there is to say about potholes, it needed to be edited out the piece.

But we'll gladly present it to you now to keep things moving along.


After the news conference, we asked city operations director Art Victor about complaints we had heard at a candidate forum in Elliott regarding the city's 311 line, or Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's Response Line. He referred us to Wendy Urbanic, the city's 311 Director, standing right next to him.

A couple of folks in Elliott complained aloud that you call 311, they record your complaint and you get a tracking number, you don't hear anything for weeks, you call back and they say they've lost your tracking number. We asked Urbanic how often, if ever, that is known to happen.

"Oh, very rarely," she responded. She said on occasion an operator will enter a number, and "computers crash -- usually mid-call", but that happens only "occasionally -- very, very rarely."

She said that if there has been a higher incidence of complaints about 311, that's a reflection of the "huge increase in the volume of calls made" -- due to increased
awareness of the 311 line, not due to the existence of more things to complain about.

We inquired about the vintage of the computers 311 is using. "No, the computers are pretty new," Urbanic said, but they will crash "sometimes". Another plausible explanation, she said, is "Frankly, sometimes people take down the tracking numbers wrong" -- transposing digits or the like.


  1. Wendy Urbanic does a great job at 311.

  2. Looking back, now I wonder how does 311 know that it's not getting more complaints simply because people are having more complaints?

    And I wonder now if the crashing isn't a problem with the hardware, but rather a problem with the software?

    And I wonder now, for non-anonymous complaints (which I'm guessing is the majority of complaints), why 311 doesn't track by resident address rather than by tracking number? People don't forget their own address.

  3. I'm not too impressed with 311. I brought an issue to their attention using the internet and it took them over three months to get back to me.

  4. Hmm, the problem could also be operator error. I should give 311 a call to find out some things, like how long the tracking number is.

    As for using an address as a tracking number, the tracking number would be hard to sort due to variability in numbers, and you would need to assign an iterative number, to allow for multiple calls and also the possibility of multiple household members.

    On the other hand, as an alternative value to search on, either addresses or phone numbers would be excellent.

    This sounds like good material for an in depth story for a news outlet to be named later.

  5. Did we really expect any less?

    311 is a joke. Why do I need to call in about a pothole? City cops should be making those requests during patrols like they do in every other town.

    Every time I hear about the Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's Response Line I cringe. Perhaps the only thing that Bob O did was start the 311 line and Luke stole it practically from on top of Bob's coffin. He snatched it out of the hands of his Widow and used it for political gain. I am not a Bob O fan and not a Luke fan at all either but I thought it was really crappy to do that.

    I guess a real community leader over there in Elliot would take charge and see what the issue is and ask the residents what the deal is. Instead we get a "Wendy Urbanic does a great job at 311." from Matt H. Does that solve the problem? Would he help those residents out? It seems like it's just being swept under the rug.

    Weren't Hitler Youth "community organizers" also?

  6. The HUDDLER has used 311 more than once. The HUDDLER hates the idea of 311 because the huddler is afraid that someone may call 311 when they should be calling 911.

    BUT the HUDDLER must give our friends down at 311 a GOLD STAR.

    It didn't happen overnight. But each and every issue the Huddler has called on has been resolved !!

    THANKS 311 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Wow---now I'm a Hitler youth according to that nameless blogger.

    "City cops should be making those requests during patrols like they do in every other town."

    No thanks. I'd much rather them be doing police work.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. Guess you lumped the President in that group as well.

  10. 311 clan for life.

  11. If you see a UFO, should you call 311?

  12. Then next time, I will. KDKA has made it clear that they don't want to hear from me about any more UFOs.

  13. 311 said it was probably Venus or a weather balloon. Then they hung-up when I said they must be in on the conspiracy of silence.

  14. If my girlfriend gets beat up at a club should I call 911 or 311?

  15. The new version has too much operator error, the old service center better served the public better and they could actually find the calls made without a tracking number

  16. I have exchanging e-mails with Wendy for welll over 2 months thru 311 and nothing has been resolved, she has even gone as far as to make fun of me in an e-mail to a fellow coworker because I was e-mailing multiple people at the city trying to get something done. By mistake she replied to my e-mail instead of forwarding it and said "This guy must have e-mailed half the city." Very professional.

  17. Hey Guys,

    Wendy is my mother, and she is actually incredibly efficient at what she does. She takes 300-400 emails PER DAY, which is something I doubt many of you could. Also, she is devoted to her job, not only is she staying overnight tonight (2/8/10) because we are in a state of emergency due to snowfall, but EVERY time I come home from school, she spends half of her time off from work on her computer continually inputting information from 311.

    So before you complain, think about the fact that there are 6 people in her office answering non-stop ringing telephones from 8 in the morning til 5 at night, and even longer when the city is in need. She not only answers the ridiculous volume of e-mails she receives per day, but takes calls with the rest of them. I doubt anyone else is as dedicated to their job as she is to hers.

    And, if she "made fun of you," then you probably deserved it. She's nothing but professional.