City Hall Phones Still Down
Earlier this year, City Administrator Marc Dashield told the City Council a new "voice over internet protocol" had been installed, linking city phone and computer systems. His pitch for an information technology director to manage the system did not receive council approval in the budget year that ended June 30, possibly because of suspicions that the job was being tailored for a certain individual.
The plan was to merge Communications and Technology under one person. Since March, the city has had no public information officer and only one staffer for the local access television channel. The IT person was to become the person in charge.
The mayor responded Thursday to a citizen's request by e-mail that was copied to bloggers. She noted that computers were frequently down and pointed out the need for an IT director.
"Sorry for the delay in responding, our computers seem to be down quite frequently. It is imperative that we have an Information Technology Department to handle all of our needs, especially to help us be able to communicate on a timely basis with our residents," the mayor wrote, although the topic of the inquiry was the city's applications for stimulus money.
So here we are in August 2009 with a big problem. Now that Plaintalker has been covering city government for more than four years, there is an archive that might offer some perspective. A search for "voice over internet" turned up two posts, one from the March discussion and the other from the mayor's 100-day report - in 2006. Click here to see the posts.
We see that the issue was a priority in 2006 and is still unresolved.
How come? Was there a lack of political will? Did the high cabinet turnover slow things down? Must we wait for the new Information Technology committee to be formed? Council President Rashid Burney has discussed both VoIP and IT on his blog. Click here for some of his posts. If part of the problem is an unclear understanding between the administration and the governing body on IT outcomes, can dialogue take place soon?
Municipal government is not known for being nimble, but as we see in the Obama administration, a good team effort can bring about needed responses to pressing issues. The city did not complete the implementation of an IT plan in FY 2009 and may not be able to do so until the FY 2010 budget is passed, but there must be some interim solution to keeping the lines of communication open. If possible, at the very least, the city web site could be used to update residents and perhaps to provide a couple of alternate links to City Hall until the system is up again.