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Fed Up With Jobs Being Marked Complete When They're Not, Ald. Andre Vasquez Introduces Legislation To Improve 311 System

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A North Side alderman is fed up with the city's 311 system, and he is introducing a new law to improve it.

He wants more accurate response times, more transparency from the city, and better communication. Those are all issues that CBS 2's Tim McNicholas has reported on for more than a year.

On one block in Andersonville, a bump in the road represents 10 months of frustration for neighbors.

"It's very frustrating," said Robert Garcia.

Garcia even blames it for a hit-and-run crash on an icy night last winter.

"I'm guessing they were driving pretty fast, hit the pothole, and then somebody slammed their car into my car," he said.

Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) sent us 311 requests painting a confusing picture of the problem. Some of the requests are still open, but some have been marked completed with notes like "no construction issue found" – or just last month, "no potholes found."

That's because in the city's eyes, the bump causing the trouble is not a pothole.

"They close that ticket and say that's a utility cut; we need to have somebody else check that out," Vasquez said. "But your average neighbor gets none of that information. All they see is a closed ticket and they go, 'Well, what did I put it in for in the first place?'"

From piles of trash to abandoned cars to other bumpy roads, in the past two years, we've found requests all over the city marked completed when the job wasn't actually done.

"When you all do reporting to make this the forefront of the conversation, it puts more impetus on us as government to try to solve those problems," Vasquez said.

Now, the alderman has introduced an ordinance aimed at eliminating confusion.

Ald. Vasquez says communication is key. He wants the city to update 311 requests online to show every step they've taken to get the job done, and every step they will take.

"All that information is available," Vasquez said. "It's just about getting our systems and software, which your tax dollars pay for, to actually deliver that information to you."

He also said that software can calculate a more accurate estimated completion time, so residents have realistic expectations. And it can allow city workers to post before-and-after photos to the public to show they finished the job – something the City of San Diego is already doing.

"We've got the software to be able to do that," Vasquez said.

Ald. Vasquez filed the ordinance last week. He is hoping it moves along smoothly.

The Office of Emergency Management and Communications released the following statement in response to Vasquez's proposal:

"In order to make the 3-1-1 system more effective and user-friendly, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications and the Department of Assets, Information and Services have been working closely with Alderman Vasquez on enhancements to the 3-1-1 service request technology regarding service delivery information. We have also been working to improve the user experience internally with various City of Chicago Departments tasked with handling the requests for service. The City of Chicago is also continuing to develop a plan to expand the photo feature capability. As with any technology solution, moving to a modernized platform requires adjustments and user adoption for all the tools available.

"The 3-1-1 Call Center operators take in all non-emergency requests for services and provide information to residents. Once requests are received, they are sent to the City of Chicago Department responsible for that service. Each respective department is responsible for updating their outcomes in the 3-1-1 system regarding their delivery of services pertaining to the 3-1-1 requests."

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