If you see a rabid raccoon, a leaking fire hydrant or a stray chicken in front of your house, and you live in the St. Louis metro area, good luck figuring out who to call. Unlike citizens of Kansas City MO, Rochester NY, Dyersburg TN, or an embarrassingly long list of other towns both larger and smaller than St. Louis, we don’t have a 311 system, the simple, three-digit number that centralizes non-emergency calls to local government agencies. To view a map of who’s got 311 and who doesn’t, click here. But beware: It’s not going to help your community self-esteem.
Baltimore is purported to be the first city to have seen the wisdom of 311. They got theirs up and running in 1999. Since then, 311 has become a no-brainer for many other metro areas. The City of Miami recently took their 311 system a step further. According to govtech.com:
Launched in early March 2010, Miami 311 pulls data from the telephone-based system and displays it on an online map. Residents can view an average of 4,500 issues in progress on the map instead of a list, and filter searches based on type of request, date, district and status, according to Stuart McKee, Microsoft national technology officer. Using a Microsoft platform…,Miami 311 was created by two people over an eight-day-period, with no up-front costs, according to a city press release.
“A simple click on the map allows them to easily drill down to more and more specific details if they want,” wrote McKee. “In short, they have turned what used to be represented by a meaningless list of data into useful information, and created actionable and consumable knowledge that is relevant to the citizens of Miami.”
I don’t know why St. Louis doesn’t have 311. Maybe it’s because the St. Louis metro area is among one of the most governmentally fragmented places in the country, with its weird city/county split and 91 county municipalities. Getting all those fiefdoms to get together on a unified 311 would be a huge task. I hope that such a system is on the works as I write this. But until this region gets on board with smart government services like 311, it’s going to continue to lag behind and wonder why.