Ignore Them, They'll Go Away

delete keyLast September the Parents Advisory Committee (PAC) at the Ecole Oceanside Elementary School in Parksville asked me to help establishing a crossing guard program for what they considered to be a dangerous intersection at one corner of the school grounds. In past, the principal had raised the issue of liability concerns that needed to be looked into and that was the end of the conversation.

This year, with a little bit of research and advice from another school that had a crossing guard program this program was backed by the new principal. The request made it as far as school district’s Operations and Maintenance / Transportation manager according to the PAC, where it stalled yet again.

The head of the PAC has now stopped responding to requests for an update on the progress of their project.

The strategy of Ignore Them, They'll Go Away seems to have been successfully adopted by many levels of government today. From the perspective of gathering information for this site, RoadSafetyBC is the worst, TranBC along with the RCMP are somewhere in the middle and ICBC has been the best, although they are now beginning to ignore e-mail requests as well.

In all cases, if you agenda matches theirs, information is forthcoming, often surprisingly quickly. The people at RoadSafetyBC spent a lot of effort assisting me in creating a unit on the Enhanced Road Assessment for my ElderCollege course. However, ask if there has been any follow up research on 2015's B.C. Communities Road Safety Survey to see if there have been improvements and the e-mail enters a black hole.

At this point I would even be happy with an auto response telling me that my message has been received. It would be a simple matter to include information about how requests are triaged and what to do if a response is not received within a reasonable amount of time.

When I was working in traffic enforcement I was occasionally reminded by the driver I was dealing with that they were the ones that paid my wages. Yes, I did work for them but sometimes that work was not what they wanted me to be doing. Still, they had a point and I had an obligation. Government seems to forget this too.

On the other hand, I can imagine that with the ability to e-mail some government contacts being so simple, many of us do it. There must be a huge volume of e-mail to deal with and people do make mistakes.

To come full circle to the PAC request, if they considered their crossing guard program and decided that it was the best solution, they should be prepared to persist in the face of silence. The group should not quit until they are either successful or are shown that there is a better way to deal with the problem.

Comments

Well Established Technique

In short,when you present a problem to a government body, which is responsable for dealing with that particular issue, rather than embracing the problem and the task of solving it, their focus is generally to look for excuses and reasons to not deal with it.

It seems to be a well established technique that most seem to use. They never say up front that they will take that approach, but in the end, what is accomplished is irrelevent and not as important their perceived input.

In the end, nothing gets done.

How to get a reply

When writing to government agencies unless they have proven otherwise never start with the person you expect to reply.

Contact the top person. I also go back to the old fashion snail mail but request delivery receipt. A piece of paper someone has to file. If it goes into the round file cabinet when you write again you can include the delivery information.

Nobody likes to have a demand from their superior to reply to a request. The more people that have to shuffle that piece of paper before it reaches the end of the line usually the better chance you have of getting an answer. And don't hesitate to send a letter to your MLA or MP asking if they will follow up. They want to get re-elected. If you are really serious request a meeting. You do employ them:)

Nothing to back this up yet it seems a written request through the Post Office is usually answered faster than an email. It shows that you have taken the time to write the letter, go to the P.O. and send with a receipt to show it has been delivered and paid the cost to do this. An email one can fire off in anger and it just gets ignored as the person knows no one else is going to be breathing down their neck to reply. 

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