I wondered who I could report this problem to, but quickly became discouraged as I imagined working my way through robot telephone menus, then finally speaking with a bored employe who thought I was nuts.
Then I read about a new tool to resolve this and similar problems:
"See Click Fix"
SeeClickFix.com is "a local advocacy Web site that lets users write about issues to encourage communication between residents and local government. SeeClickFix users post a complaint about problems that occur within a set of boundaries on a Google Map, like graffiti at a bus stop or potholes on a busy street, and the site communicates the problem to the appropriate government agency and marks the problem on the map.
Users can comment on the issue or label it resolved. Government agencies can post on the site to respond to residents, and journalists can use the site to communicate with readers and see which issues are most pressing to people.
Ben Berkowitz, the chief executive of SeeClickFix, said the tool went beyond government: 'Anyone can be held accountable: a business, nonprofit, even a private citizen.'" Read more.
Fixing environmental problems
While the above example mentions problems like potholes in streets, we can use the site for environmental problems like the following:
- Waste--parking lots that keep lights on all day
- Stormwater issues--large parking lots in the neighborhood that dump stormwater onto streets, rather than into a rain garden
- Identifying other spots for public rain gardens
- Erosion in parks
- Construction sites not complying with erosion laws
- Chemical leaks and spills
- Places where litter accumulates
Here's an example of problems reported in another city.
Since the tool is new, not much is happening yet on SeeClickFix in Madison. The Mayor's office has set up a "watch area." Good for Mayor Dave!
How to get started with SeeClickFix
You do not need an account on SeeClickFix--but you can easily start one if you already have a Facebook account. The site does have Pro accounts for businesses that require a fee, but citizens do not have to pay a membership fee.
- Citizens start here.
- Under "citizens get started," type in your city, neighborhood, or zip. Experiment with the map or lists of neighborhoods till you find the area you want to work within. I'd recommend your city, since the site is new.
- Check out to see what problems your neighbors have reported. But probably there won't be any, since SeeClickFix is new.
- Next, report your first problem. Click on the tab "report an issue."
- Indicate where your issue is. You can type in an address, or you can use the map to drag the symbol over the right location. Use the arrows to move the map till it covers your area. When done, click "go to step 2."
- State the problem. First enter something short and clear in the "summary" blank. This will be the name of your problem, so make it short, clear, and descriptive. If more details are needed, you can add them in the space below.
- Next, it's highly recommended to add a photo.
- Add your e-mail address in the blank. It will not be shared with the public.
- When you are done entering, click on "report your issue."
- If your report has been entered into the "Madson Mayor's Office" watch area, then your report will be emailed direct to the mayor's office. I made the first two reports, so don't expect any action right away--because probably no one there is expecting reports yet. Together we have get this process going.
- After you click on "report your issue," wait for a bit while your photo and report are uploaded. Next, you will see some suggestions above for what to do next. For example, you can email your report to your facebook friends, or you can even print a ready-made flier to slip under your neighbor's door.
Think of SeeClickFix as a public bulletin board where problems are aired and people work together to solve them.
It's a great new tool for citizens--but if no one picks up the tool, no work gets done..