bureaucracybusters

Posts Tagged ‘SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS’

WHY CITIZENS DESPISE GOVERNMENT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 5, 2016 at 12:01 am

The quickest way of opening the eyes of the people is to find the means of making them descend to particulars, seeing that to look at things only in a general way deceives them.…

-Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

One morning at about 8:10, a friend of mine named Robert heard a helicopter repeatedly buzzing the San Francisco Tenderloin area, where he lived.

Thinking that a fire or police action might be in the works, he called the non-emergency number of the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD): (415) 553-0123.

Police dispatcher

And he got a recorded message.

This told him–in English–what he already knew: He had reached the San Francisco Police Department.

Then it told him this again in Spanish.  Then again in Cantonese. Then came a series of high–pitched squeals–presumably for those who are hard-of-hearing.

Then the line went dead, and another recorded voice told Robert: “If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and try again.”

At that point, Robert decided to waste no more time trying to learn if there was an emergency going on in his area.  Or, to put it more accurately, he decided to waste no more time trying to learn this from the SFPD.

Instead, Robert turned on his TV and checked all the local news channels.  When he didn’t see anyone reporting a raging fire or police sealing off an area, he decided there probably wasn’t anything to worry about.

But later on he decided to call the SFPD once again–to complain at a level he believed would attain results.

That level was the office of its chief, Greg Suhr.

Robert didn’t expect to reach the chief himself.  But he didn’t have to: Reaching Suhr’s secretary should serve the same purpose.

The secretary he reached turned out to be a sworn officer of the agency.  She patiently heard out Robert’s complaint.  And she totally agreed with it.

She also agreed that this was a longstanding problem with the SFPD–citizens not being able to get through for help because of an ineffective communications system.

Finally, she agreed with Robert that the situation counted as a major PR disaster for her agency.  People who become disgusted and/or disillusioned with a police department’s phone system aren’t likely to trust that agency with their cooperation–or their lives.

Then she had a surprise for Robert: Like him, she had at times been unable to reach a live dispatcher–even when calling 9-1-1.

She added that the police department did not handle its own dispatch work.  This had been farmed out long ago to the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management (SFDEM).

She said that the SFPD didn’t have any control–or even influence–over SFDEM, which operated as an independent agency.

Robert suggested that it was definitely in the best interests of the SFPD for someone at its highest level to contact SFDEM and demand major reforms. Or to find another agency that would take its dispatcher responsibilities seriously.

The chief’s secretary said she would pass along Robert’s comments to the proper authority.

Will anything change?  Not likely, barring a miracle.

There are few events more frightening and frustrating than having to call the police, fire department or paramedics during an emergency–and get a recorded message.

Whether intended or not, the message this sends the caller can only be: “Your call is simply not important to us–and neither are you.  We’ll get to you when we feel like it.”

When people call the police or fire department, they’re usually frightened–for themselves or others.  They know that, in a fire or crime or medical emergency, literally every second counts.

It’s going to take the police or fire or paramedics several minutes to arrive–assuming they don’t get caught up in a traffic snarl.

And it’s going to take them even longer to arrive if it takes the caller several minutes to reach them with a request for help.

This is the sort of bread-and-butter issue that local authorities–who operate police and fire departments–should take most seriously.

Mayors and council members should not expect to be treated with respect when their constituents are treated so disrespectfully in a time of crisis.

And citizens aren’t stupid.  They can easily tell lies from truths.

Lies such as: “We’d like to put in a new communications system, but we can’t afford it due to budget cuts.”

And truths such as: While San Francisco faced a $229 million deficit for the fiscal year, 2012, it nevertheless found

  • Monies to tap after the San Francisco Giants won the 2011-12 World Series, 4-0.
  • Monies to decorate various San Francisco buildings (such as the airport) with the orange-and-black colors of the Giants.
  • Or with the Giants logo.
  • Monies to throw a day-long party for the victorious Giants on October 31–Halloween.

San Francisco Airport–decked out with San Francisco Giants colors

So, in the end, it all comes down to a matter of priority–for both citizens and their elected leaders.

As Robert F. Kennedy once said: “Every nation gets the kind of government it deserves–and the kind of law enforcement it insists in.”

THE AGENCIES WE DESERVE

In Bureaucracy, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 22, 2013 at 12:13 am

The quickest way of opening the eyes of the people is to find the means of making them descend to particulars, seeing that to look at things only in a general way deceives them.…

-Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

One morning at about 8:10, a friend of mine named Robert heard a helicopter repeatedly buzzing the San Francisco Ternderloin area, where he lives.

Thinking that a fire or police action might be in the works, he called the non-emergency number of the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD): (415) 553-0123.

Police dispatcher

And he got a recorded message.

This told him–in English–what he already knew: He had reached the San Francisco Police Department.

Then it told him this again in Spanish.  Then again in Cantonese.  Then came a series of high-pitched squeals–presumably for those who are hard-of-hearing.

Then the line went dead, and another recorded voice told Robert: “If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and try again.”

At that point, Robert decided to waste no more time trying to learn if there was an emergency going on in his area.  Or, to put it more accurately, he decided to waste no more time trying to learn this from the SFPD.

Instead, Robert turned on his TV and checked all the local news channels.  When he didn’t see anyone reporting a raging fire or police sealing off an area, he decided there probably wasn’t anything to worry about.

But later on he decided to call the SFPD once again–to complain at a level he believed would attain results.

That level was the office of its chief, Greg Suhr.

Robert didn’t expect to reach the chief himself.  But he didn’t have to: Reaching Suhr’s secretary should serve the same purpose.

The secretary he reached turned out to be a sworn officer of the agency.  She patiently heard out Robert’s complaint.  And she totally agreed with it.

She also agreed that this was a longstanding problem with the SFPD–citizens not being able to get through for help because of an ineffective communications system.

Finally, she agreed with Robert that the situation counted as a major PR disaster for her agency.  People who become disgusted and/or disallusioned with a police department’s phone system aren’t likely to trust that agency with their cooperation–or their lives.

Then she had a surprise for Robert:  Like him, she had at times been unable to reach a live dispatcher–even when calling 9-1-1.

She added that the police department did not handle its own dispatch work.  This had been farmed out long ago to the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management (SFDEM).

She said that the SFPD didn’t have any control–or even influence–over SFDEM, which operated as an independent agency.

Robert suggested that it was definitely in the best interests of the SFPD for someone at its highest level to contact SFDEM and demand major reforms.  Or to find another agency that would take its dispatcher responsibilities seriously.

The chief’s secretary said she would pass along Robert’s comments to the proper authority.

Will anything change?  Not likely, barring a miracle.

There are few events more frightening and frustrating than having to call the police, fire department or paramedics during an emergency–and get a recorded message.

Whether intended or not, the message this sends the caller can only be: “Your call is simply not important to us–and neither are you.  We’ll get to you when we feel like it.”

When people call the police or fire department, they’re usually frightened–for themselves or others.  They know that, in a fire or crime or medical emergency, literally second counts.

It’s going to take the police or fire or paramedics several minutes to arrive–assuming they don’t get caught up in a traffic snarl.

And it’s going to take them even longer to arrive if it takes the caller several minutes to reach them with a request for help.

This is the sort of bread-and-butter issue that local authorities–who operate police and fire departments–should take most seriously.

Mayors and council members should not expect to be treated with respect when their constituents are treated so disrespectfully in a time of crisis.

And citizens aren’t stupid.  They can easily tell lies from truths.

Lies such as: “We’d like to put in a new communications system, but we can’t afford it due to budget cuts.”

And truths such as: While San Francisco faced a $229 million deficit for the fiscal year, 2012, it nevertheless found untold monies to tap after the San Francisco Giants won the 2011-12 World Series, 4-0.

Monies to decorate various San Francisco buildings (such as the airport) with the orange-and-black colors of the Giants.  Or with the Giants logo.

San Francisco Airport–decked out with San Francisco Giants colors

Monies to throw a day-long party for the victorious Giants on October 31–Halloween.

So, in the end, it all comes down to a matter of priority–for both citizens and their elected leaders.  As Robert F. Kennedy once said: “Every nation gets the kind of government it deserves–and the kind of law enforcement it insists in.”

PRIORITIES–AND PREROGATIVES

In History, Politics, Social commentary on November 2, 2012 at 12:45 am

In the 1970 film, Patton, General George S. Patton is a man driven by his obsession to be the best field commander in the war–and to be recognized for it.

And he sees British General Bernard Montgomery–his equally egotistical rival–as a potential obstacle to that latter ambition.

So, in Algeria, he conjures up a plan that will sideline “Monty” while he, Patton, defeats the Germans–and bags the glory.

The trick lies in throwing a sumptuous dinner–in the middle of the African desert–for a visiting British general: Harold Alexander.

As Patton (George C. Scott, in an Oscar-winning performance) tells his aide:

“I have a plan for the invasion of Sicily.  I want to make sure I get it approved.

“I want to give a dinner for General Alexander.  I want to get to him before Montgomery does.

“I want the finest food and the best wine available.  Everything.”

The aide pulls off the dinner–where, indeed, “the finest food and the best wine” are on full display, along with attentive waiters and a candelabra.

And Patton outlines his plan of conquest: He will take the Sicilian cities of Palermo and Messina, while Montgomery is tasked with driving along the coast road.

Alexander seems to be impressed.

But the plan is thwarted when Montgomery protests (off-camera) to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who commands the Allied forces.

So think about it:

  • In the middle of the desert
  • while American and British forces are forced to subsist on C-Rations
  • and are under repeated air attack by the Luftwaffe
  • and tank attack by the Afrika Korps

a handful of ultlra-pampered American and British military officers find the time–and luxuries–to throw themselves a fine party.

Now, fast-forward from Algeria in 1943 to San Francisco in 2012.

The city faced a $229 million deficit for the fiscal year, 2012, beginning July 1.  And it faces a $364 million deficit in 2013.  The reason is well-known: the City’s expenses continue to rise faster than its revenues, largely due to employee costs.

Take City College, for example.  It’s perilously close to bankruptcy, in part because it employs nearly twice as many faculty as similar colleges and pays them better.

Yet it educates no more students on average, according to a financial analysis of the state’s largest public school.

City departments had to submit budget proposals by the end of February that assumed a 5% cut in each of the next two fiscal years, and a 2.5% contingency during the course of both years.

Of course, all of that was before the San Francisco Giants won the 2011-12 World Series, 4-0.

Then, suddenly, the spending spree was on.

Untold sums of city monies went on decorating various San Francisco buildings (such as the airport) with the orange-and-black colors of the Giants.  Or with the SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS logo.

San Francisco Airport draped in Giants’ orange color 

But that was nothing compared to the day-long party the city threw for the victorious Giants on October 31–Halloween.

An estimated one million people lined Market Street–from its furthest point east at Embarcadero Center all the way to Civic Center Plaza, near City Hall.  Parents, college kids, toddlers, office workers and local, state and Federal politicians vied to see and be seen.

Schoolchildren–ranging in age from elementary to high school–played hookey.  So did many office workers.  After all, what’s the point of showing up for school or work when a whole city acts as though the Second Coming has arrived?

At the center of the festivities, of course, were the Giants themselves.  Basking in the worship of their fans, they were universally hailed as heroes.

Not for

  • having saved anyone’s life
  • or curing some major disease
  • or saving or even just serving their country in times of peril.

They were heroes because–while piling up huge salaries–they won a series of danger-free baseball games.

To make sure the day came off smoothly, hundreds of San Francisco police were deployed along the route of the parade.

On the night the Giants won the World Series, some of their fans celebrated by starting bonfires, torching a public transit bus and vandalizing stores and vehicles.

So the police were taking no chances of repeat violence.

Tactical squads stayed alert for trouble, and police cars were equipped with fire extinguishers in case more fires broke out.

Confetti rained all along Market Street.

The city used 24 cannons to shoot 1.5 tons of biodegradable, non-toxic orange and black confetti–10 times more than was used in 2012 when the Giants won that World Series.

When the celebrating was over, the cleanup began.  The city deployed 12 sweeper and steamer trucks and more than 50 people walked the route with brooms and blowers.

Is there a lesson to be learned from all this?  Yes.

It’s that powerful people–whether generals or politicians or the wealthy–will always find money and resources available for those projects they consider important.

It’s only when it comes to projects that other people need that such officials will claim there is, unfortunately, a cash shortage.

%d bloggers like this: