So a few months back I wrote an email to the city asking what becomes of all thousands of bugs that get stuck in the street lamps over Taft Bridge. Most of the time when I submit these lunatic correspondents to corporations through their websites they go unanswered. But I guess the District government has a bureaucratic system dealing with such whackjob requests because within hours I received a response from the Mayor hisself!
Thank you for writing to Mayor Anthony Williams. We appreciate your comments and care about your concerns. This acknowledgement is in reference to your recent email. Addressed in your email were various concerns that will be addressed by the following two different Points-of-Contacts and agencies:
* NA, the Mayor's point-of-contact at the D.C. Dept. of Health. Please feel free to contact that office at (202) 442-#### or NA@dc.gov regarding the status of your request.
* DDOT Clearinghouse, the Mayor's point-of-contact at the D.C. Dept. of Transportation. Please feel free to contact that office at (202) 671-#### or CS.firstname.lastname@example.org regarding the status of your request.
Your correspondence has been assigned the following EOM tracking number: ######. Please refer to this number when referencing this request.
If you receive no contact or reply from the agency within 5 business days, please call (202) 727-####. Give them the contact's name, office, and tracking number and ask for a point-of-contact follow-up.
For future correspondence with the Mayor or to submit your e-mail address for his database, please write to email@example.com.
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t Tony on the other end of the internets but it did say that if I needed anything else I could write him directly. (Goodbye jaywalking ticket?) And it looked as if somebody had actually read the letter and sent it to the appropriate department. To me, the Department of Transportation is the obvious inbox for harebrained questions about street lamps but the Department of Health is a nice way to cover your bases. Nobody wants piles of West Nile over their heads. That can’t be good for the city’s crows.
The next day’s inbox brought even more progress.
Thank you for contacting the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) regarding your request for information on the policy for cleaning the street lamps posts. Your request will be forwarded to the Traffic Services Administration (TSA). You will receive a response directly from TSA within the next 30 business days.
When inquiring about the status of your service request, you may contact Mr. C with the DDOT Customer Service Clearinghouse at (202) 671-####. Please refer to Service Number ######.
Again, thank you for contacting the District Department of Transportation.
d.Customer Service Clearinghouse
Wow. The wheels of bureaucracy spin quickly in the city. I got two responses in two days from what I assume are robots saying they’ve used their precious RAM to process my letter. The “you will receive a response directly from TSA within the next 30 business days” part dampened some of the exhilaration but so far so good.
Then came this:
The Department of Health is in receipt of your email. It has been forwarded to the Animal Control Division for response.
This two sentence buck passing from the DOH to the Animal Control Division was a little troubling. It moved the responsibility further away from the people I assumed should be taking care of this. While their specific activities do include conducting “disease surveillance, such as for West Nile virus” they also “issue permits and enforce laws governing carriage horses, hobbies, wildlife, yellow fever clinics, pet shops, pigeon housing, animal exhibits, and others, as required” and “provide education via pamphlets, classroom visits.” I bet they don’t have the highest budget priority and cleaning street lamps would take away from their pamphlet time.
It didn’t matter though because the stream of responses then went silent. But what of my concerns as a non-resident? Were the lamps actually being cleaned? Should I fear being mugged crossing Taft Bridge because the lights are so dim*? There are many places bandits to hide.
Check back soon for the exciting conclusion and see if anything ever gets done. Or if I just get lied to.
*Turns out, no.