20 March 2012

A Grand Example of Omaha Bureaucracy

Because of a personal interest in how many dollars were spent to devise a tepid and inconsiderate plan for the future of Fontenelle Park, one phone call was made to determine the cost of the endeavor.

It was the first step in an ongoing saga as there was no accurate response. Instead the lack of an answer from one city employee or official, meant that another phone call was required, then one more phone call, and then another, and again, many times repeated during several days.

These are the particulars as noted during an effort of unsuccessful communication, with a final reply days after the effort was started:

On March 15th, two calls were made to the office of Mayor Jim Suttle.

Then, the interim director of the Parks and Recreation Department was reached via phone, but he did not know, as he was newly appointed, according to his explanation.

Nothing was mentioned to answer the primary question.

The Finance department of the City was then called, but they said to call the City of Omaha Purchasing department.

City of Omaha Purchasing did not know -- there were too many details to consider and without particulars the specifics could not be determined -- and said that someone in the Parks and Recreation Department should be contacted. The name they suggested was not in the office.

There were two more calls made, one to a rep of the mayor who was out of town, and to the contractor, who was out on a long lunch.

The tally of calls at this point is eight!

Continuing this effort before the weekend, the next respondent tried to pass my inquiry to someone else, a common response to people that are ignorant of the item of interest.

At least they were aware of the situation, saying that: "nothing is so consistent as bureaucracy" and then suggesting that the clerk of the City Council should be called.

This clerk was not in the office on Friday, so the person answering the phone said to call the Finance department or the Parks Department.

Finance was called. There was no answer. The name of a suggested person in the Parks department was then called, and they were out of the office.

The tally of calls at this point is twelve, at least.

Finally at early the end of the week someone in the Finance Department took some responsibility and found a suitable name and said they would call back. They did respond and said the person could be called on Monday.

By now the phone call tally was at 14...

The phone call roulette started later on Monday afternoon. The first attempt was to get the number of the unknown John Williams, in the Parks department. The city directory operator could not provide his number as no number was listed.

An alternate call to an official of the mayors office meant contact with an answering machine.

Call number 17 was once again to the Finance department, were they once again tried to be helpful. This particular effort resulted in a multi-line effort with a parks planned in the Parks and Recreation Department and where the number of the person that apparently in the know was provided.

Though this person had already been asked to call-back, nothing of the sort had yet happened.

With the number known, a direct phone call was made. The call went directly to a message machine.

Finally, late on the afternoon of Monday, March 19th, the proper person was contacted in the Park Department. The specific dollar amount was given. The respondent, when told of the many previous calls made to determine this value, said something in the sense of that it would have only taken one call if you called the right person.

No kidding! Basically, at least twenty calls were required to reach the one person that knew the particular detail of interest.

What a grand example of City of Omaha bureaucracy.