It's become an institution in New York City and Somerville, but Boston has no plans to add a 311 hotline to handle residents' non-emergency complaints and questions. The Boston Globe's John Drake reports that Mayor Tom Menino is unmoved by City Council members who say that the current hotline (617-635-4500) is too hard to remember. (As of this writing, that number is not on the city of Boston's homepage, even though 311 shows up three times on Somerville's homepage and there's a 311 logo on New York City's homepage.)
But City Hall has logic on its side. If it's easier for citizens to make complaints, there will probably be more complaints, and who needs that?
Menino's spokeswoman, Dot Joyce, said the existing hot line has served the city well.
"We had a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week hot line for residents to call and get a human being long before there was ever a 311," Joyce said.
Menino's chief information officer, Bill Oates, insisted yesterday that the city will have an online tracking system for complaints ready by the end of 2008, but he said the administration has no plans to switch to a 311 number.
He said residents are comfortable with the mayor's long-established hot line. But he also acknowledged a switch to the catchy and simple 311 could elicit a flood of new calls.
"One of the challenges of 311 is we don't want to turn the button on 311 and have a volume [of calls] that will overwhelm the capacity of the call center," Oates said.
It seems that the key to efficiency is keep down those pesky calls from voters. Somerville has outsmarted itself by giving city employees more to do.